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Reviews and Ramblings

March is a crazy month around here. It really is and it always has been. My birthday and two of my siblings birthdays are all in March. Now that I’m a grown up (in theory anyway) it’s still frenetic. Jo’s birthday is in March, as are several members of our extended family. It’s also exam time at the university which means Jo is really, really busy at work. Between setting the exams, help sessions, supervising exams, marking them and answering loads and loads of student’s emails there’s not a whole lot of ‘down’ time. As if that weren’t enough, schools always seem to plan things for March; meetings, info sessions, student performances…

It’s crazy!

We’re halfway through though, which is yay!

I heard back from Clarion, they said thanks but no thanks. I also applied to Clarion West and am waiting to hear back from them with my fingers crossed. I’d prefer CW over Clarion, actually, so I’m not overly disappointed about Clarion. Besides, did you see who’s teaching there this year? I bet the competition was pretty crazy. Which is not to imply it isn’t for CW as well.

I will be disappointed if I don’t get into Clarion West, but not destroyed. This is a good thing. A very good thing. I want to go, but I don’t -need- to go. We’ll see what happens 🙂

While I wait I’m writing a lot. I’m doing a pretty good job of sticking with my plan to write each morning when I have my coffee. So far as a result I’ve got one poem, a pretty darn good short story and have almost finished another short. They are all first drafts, but since I find revising easier than getting the first draft done, that’s a pretty big hurdle. I’ll be sharing the second short story (in all it’s first draft glory, I’m afraid) with my newsletter readers…tomorrow. I won’t have time to finish it today.

The last (but, as they say, not least) thing I wanted to share today was this. It’s a review of Shades of Green, this time by an unbiased reviewer. Zeek from The Way I See It reviewed Shades of Green and, for the most part, he liked it. He said some nice things about the story, including that he enjoyed the world and could see how it would be the springboard for more stories, and also made me smile with this.

…there is much potential and its obvious the author has her craft honed already, so in the end this story gets a 3.9 out of 5 from me.

I like it when people think I have honed my craft. I know I have so much more to learn, but it’s wonderful to feel as though I’m progressing steadily.

Oh, and what’s with the picture of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco? Nothing. I took it last summer when we were on vacation and I like it. That’s all.

A New Review

As Ms. Parrish is apt to do, every word feels intentionally and methodically chosen for its effect on the reader, be it emotional or visual.  And as Z’thandra goes about her daily routine and is spit on and wrongfully accused of different actions, we want her to be able to escape the madness surrounding her.  The ending of the story… The end is simply beautiful.

That is part of Kari Wolfe’s review of Shades of Green. She likes it, she really likes it 🙂 Yay! You can read the whole review here if you’re so inclined. I got the google alert about her post while I was playing WoW. We were in the middle of the apothecary boss fight in SFK and was so distracted reading the review that I (being the healer of our group) accidentally let the DK’s ghoul die. (Sorry David). Still, yay!

Nice Things

I’ve never actually considered my stories my babies (I only have one of those and her name is Danica) but I do want people to like them, so it makes me happy when they do. There’s another review of Shades of Green available for anyone who’d like to check it out. Aubrie, of Book Reviews by Aubrie, had this to say:

Shades of Green is a unique and unsettling tale of life after an apocalypse. The descriptions are exotic and fun to read, and I felt for Z’thandra’s plight throughout. Amongst all of the prejudice and hatred she is able to forgive, and that is truly heroic. The ending is unexpected and left me with much to think about. This is no fluffy fantasy tale, but a powerful and emotional journey with a profound message at the end.

Needless to say, that put a big smile on my face 🙂 You can read the full review here.

There are also two interviews of yours truly that went live today. Firstly at Amber Stults’ website I answer questions about Shades of Green as well as what I’m currently working on. You can read that here. Some of Amber’s questions really made me think, like when she asked if I’d intentionally make the Reptars less alien than I might have.

Then over at Aubrie’s blog I answered questions about my writing process, being the editor of Niteblade and, of course, a bit about Shades of Green. You can read that one here.

I always stress about interviews because I’m never sure that my tone of…erm…voice(?) comes through in them. I did ask Jo to read these ones and tell me if I sounded like a moron. He responded with ‘You sound like yourself’ which didn’t really answer my question, but I’ll take it 😉

Release Day :)

Today is the official release day for Shades of Green. I’m a weird mixture of feelings including nervous, excited and disbelieving. Plus I’m stressy and worried about non-book related stuff.

I’m nervous and excited for sort of obvious reasons. One of my stories is being shared with the world and it’s my first physical book. How could that not inspire nerves and excitement?

It’s still not completely real to me yet, I think that will change once my author’s copies reach me (stupid post taking for freaking ever to get from the US to me). So yes…it’s a bit unreal still, but hopefully soon that will change. *crosses fingers*

In a happy coincidence green is my daughter’s favorite color and last night she and I spent some time dyeing her hair green (not all of it…just much of it). Unfortunately the dye didn’t take as well as we had hoped and this morning she has lime green streaks instead of dark green. She seems happy with it, but I still get to stress a little bit (it’s what I do). I hope she doesn’t get teased. As we were doing her hair we were talking about how it’s funny my book is called Shades of Green and she was going to have shades of green in her hair for its launch day. That was nice.

Oh, another source of stress? My husband is sick.

So it’s a weird day already…and a weird blog entry. I just thought I’d give a little peek inside my brain today. I hope I didn’t bore you.

I do have good book-related news to share too 🙂

Firstly, thank you to everyone who entered the draw to win a copy of Shades of Green. You all really made me smile. Thank you. Alas, I could only pick one winner and the random number generator says that person is Alexa. Congratulations Alexa, you win a copy of Shades of Green. Email me (rhonda@jofigure.com) with your snail mail address please 🙂

Secondly, the first review of Shades of Green is in, and I’m happy to say it’s a positive one 🙂 Amber Stults has a review up in which she says:

The ending is a bit of a surprise but it’s what sets the story apart from similar tales.  It ties things up neatly in a way that isn’t obvious on a first reading.  If you want to lose yourself in the story of the last Swamp Elf for an hour or two this is the novelette to pick up.

You can read the whole review here. If you pop over to her website tomorrow as well she will have an interview with me. It’s less scattered than this blog entry. Honest.

Now I’m going to go be unfocused some more in a less public location. :O)

The Mermaid’s Madness

MermaidsMadnessBeing a writer changes a lot of things in my life, including how I read a book. I can’t read the same way I could before I started writing ‘in earnest’ for lack of a better phrase. I judge books differently too. These days when I’m finished a book and it’s time for me to assess what I thought of it I tend to ask myself questions beyond ‘Did I like it?’. Did I enjoy my time spend within its pages? Was I able to suspend my disbelief throughout its entirety? Did it make me think? Was it well-written? Were the characters real? Did they grow?

In the case of The Mermaid’s Madness the answer to those questions, for the most part, was yes.

Okay, biases out on the table, I adore Jim C. Hines. I like him as a person, a blogger and a writer. Thus far I’ve enjoyed every novel of his that I’ve read and I’ve paid (via charity auction) for him to critique my work. That’s a double-edged thing though, really, because while it means while I was pre-disposed to like The Mermaid’s Madness, I also had high expectations that could easily have been disappointed.

They weren’t though. Yay!

The Mermaid’s Madness is the second in Jim’s princess books, the first being The Stepsister Scheme. I thought this was a great book and enjoyed it more than I did the first. It had a darker feeling to it than The Stepsister Scheme, which could well be one reason I liked it better, but I think there’s more to it than that.

The characters were very real, three dimensional beings who grew and developed over the course of the story. Jim built on what he’d started in the first book and made it even better. This is where I find it difficult to really make points without giving things away…so forgive my vagueness.

One of my favorite things about this novel is that actions had consequences. The consequences from the first book weren’t simply forgotten, they carried over and touched this one. Not heavily really (except in one case…man I suck at vagueness), but they were there — just like in real life. I can’t abide stories where everything works out well in the end and everyone lives happily ever with nothing changing except for the better, blah blah blah. That is great for children’s tales…I suppose…maybe…in pre-school…occasionally… /digression . Happily, Jim doesn’t do that. Bad things happen, and they can’t just be made better by waving a magic wand or kissing the prince. I like that.

That’s not to say I think this book was perfect. In a couple places in action scenes I got a little bit lost and had to read back to re-imagine the scene and exactly what was happening, and I struggled a bit with suspending my disbelief at how quickly some people recovered from…things (stupid vagueness). Occasionally people seemed to have supernatural endurance/recovery powers that didn’t fit with what I thought probable, that sort of thing. But I wasn’t bothered enough by those things to set down the book or even slow my reading.

On a pseudo-related note, no matter how hard I’ve tried (and I have tried) the Danielle in my mind doesn’t even come close to matching the Danielle on the cover. Not. Even. Close.  I’ve given up on making the two match and I’m just going to enjoy how Danielle looks in my imagination.

Right, back on track.

The Mermaid’s Madness made me think, about lots of things. Stuff like reprecussions, character growth, real emotion and magic. Quite specifically about magic, magic systems and mechanics. I had a few revelations related to my own writing that was sparked by thoughts about The Mermaid’s Madness. This, as you can imagine, makes me happy.

I also enjoyed the ending, and the way Jim has started subtle mysteries in this novel I look forward to seeing how they develop in the next book…though waiting for it to come out may be painful. What do you suppose the chances are of my picking up an ARC of it before its release date?

News :)

Blue JayI am very addicted to Tim Horton’s coffee. Almost as addicted as I am to World of Warcraft. I always said I should take a camera with me on the walk to Tims (which I make at least once a day). There are three Tim’s within walking distance from my house, but my favorite is on 118th Avenue. It’s not that long a walk, about 20 minutes each way, but it takes me through the playground of the school I volunteer in, near the abandoned hospital that intrigues me (and is where Deadmonton starts) and through a small wooded park. I always see something interesting on my travels, but never have the camera to record any of it. Until this time.

I took the camera with me the other day, and managed to get a picture of this blue jay. I got a few other great pictures, including one of a squirrel who really didn’t want me near his tree and a magpie that was sitting at the very top of a giant pine tree, looking quite majestic.

This story, by the way, has nothing to do with the news I wanted to share today, but I wanted an excuse to post the picture, so there you go 🙂

So right, news. I’ve got some 🙂

Firstly, my poem, Fae, is in this month’s issue of Lorelei Signal. I love the illustration that Holly Eddy did for it. It’s very nice 🙂

Also, there has been a new review of Sister Margaret that I’m very excited about 🙂 Anna, of Genre Reviews said:

Is it possible for a story to be simultaneously grim and fun? Because this one pretty much is. In the spirit of urban fantasy, there’s equal parts intrigue and action, the battle against an evil vampire, and a plethora of folks living in a gritty reality. I loved Bayne, who isn’t really a sidekick but fills the quirky content nicely, and the plot twist at the end is a great one, unexpected but logical.

She said more too, of course 🙂 You can see the whole review here –> Sister Margaret by Rhonda Parrish

My last bit of news for today is that I’m going on vacation to San Francisco. Yay! We are leaving on Sunday and will be gone for a week. While I’m away I will be completely offline, I’m not even taking my laptop in order to force myself to not work, at least for a little while. I will see you when I get back though 🙂

I’ll leave you with a picture of Danica finishing up her ice cap from the aforementioned trip to Tims. Why? Because I think she’s awesome.

Danica and an Ice Cap

Screenshot or it didn’t happen!


Sometimes you just gotta screenshot things. Even if they don’t actually mean anything. This is one of those times. Sister Margaret is actually tied with all these novels in that we all have five or more ratings and 100% of them are ‘great’. I’m sure this exalted status is only temporary but how could I not take a screenshot when it looks like my story has been rated higher than The Lord of the Rings? Dude, that is one of those oppourtunities that if you don’t take it you’re a fool. I’m lots of things. I hope a fool isn’t one of them.

Pontypool. I Surrender. For Now.

Pontypool Changes EverythingI really wanted to love this book. I truly did, but I don’t.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that I am wildly crazy in love with the movie…and the book is not the same as the movie. At least not yet. I am at page 160 out of 280 and the main character from the movie has just appeared in the book. This doesn’t work for me. Even if the second half of the novel is the same storyline as the movie, it won’t work for me — because I don’t like knowing all about the zombies before we go into that part of the story.

The descriptions in this book are beautiful…well, often grotesque, but beautifully-written. For example (warning, profanity and ya know, horror-y stuff below:

“What the fuck? Hey! Is somebody in here?”

Les grabs one of the plastic jugs. The side has been cut away. Les turns the opening upward. It holds a crazy tiara of stingers; bright, gleaming needles fill the space. Never touch us, don’t even look at us for very long. When the door opens behind him, Les swings the jug, releasing a swarm of tiny missles across a man’s face and chest. The needles grab skin with their tips, and some, pushed by the weight of other  syringes, are plunged deeper. The view from inside this man’s body would appear something like the night sky in the city, thousands of stars becoming visible. In the countr, millions. One of the needles slides precisely into his tearduct, destroying its tiny architecture before burrowin far enough to permanently ruin the man’s ability to narrow his eyes. This particular jab also causes the man to flip a gun out of his hand. The gun slams heavily against the back of the toiler, cracking it, and then spins halfway around the rim before being carried to the bottom by the weight of its handle. The man collapses against the wall, disbelieving — you don’t just do that — and he watches Les retreive the weapon from the bowl.

The first thing to exit the gun is a twist-tie drool of toilet water. The second is a speeding bullet.

I love it. I really do. In fact, the descriptions are so fantastic throughout this novel (at least what I’ve read of it) that I would happily forgive it for not being the movie I adore and enjoy it on its own merits…if it weren’t so much work. Now, perhaps I’m biased because I’m struggling through a literature course for my degree right now. The stories and poems I have to read for it are work. I don’t understand much of them at first reading and have to re-read and re-read and then read interpretations of them. It’s work. I suspect that course is also influencing my enjoyment of Pontypool Changes Everything because it too, requires some work for me.

This is why I’m only giving up on reading it for now. I hope to come back to it in a few weeks or months and read it and see if I like it better, but for now, it’s work.

I thought, at first, maybe I’m just not smart enough to get this, but Jo said it was work for him too, and he’s pretty clever, so…maybe it’s just meant to be confusing…or work…

In the morning, children in full hockey gear skate across the purple and red ice, weaving around an obstacle course of tan corpses. Several of the dear stand frozen, and the children cut down all but two. They become the opposing nets of a makeshift hockey rink. A heart thawed over a small fire is used to draw the centre line and goal creases. A great deal of time is spent disembowelling the baby creatures so that their frozen feces can be used as pucks; however, having never eaten, their little bodies are as clean as packaged straws. The children settle for the mother’s hoof, which twists off easily.

Again, another beautifully-written grotesque scene…but…is it real? Within the story I can’t tell if this is meant to be read literally or if it’s meant to be a metaphor for something, or if Tony Burgess just thought it was awesome and had to include it. I, too, think it’s awesome, but it confuses me. It’s how a chapter starts…and right after this bit the story switches to something completely unrelated and this deer/hockey scene isn’t mentioned again (that I can remember off-hand). I just don’t get it.

So again, I hope to come back to Pontypool Changes Everything sometime sooner rather than later and I hope I can write a glowing review at that time, but for right now I’m mostly just left scratching my head.

Troll’s Eye View

Troll's Eye ViewAt the World Fantasy convention in Calgary I listened to Garth Nix read an awesome story telling the tale of Rapunzel from the witch’s point of view. I loved it, but I misheard him when he said what anthology it was going to be included in. I thought he said ‘A Child’s Eye View’ and when I got home, no matter how hard I searched I couldn’t find any reference to that book. When Ellen Datlow posted the table of contents for her newest anthology (with Terri Windling) on her livejournal I almost jumped in my seat for excitement. There was the story. How I misheard troll for child is beyond me, but apparently I had.

The table of contents for this book is amazing. Peter S. Beagle and Neil Gaiman. Garth Nix and Kelly Link. Jane Yolen and Holly Black. The list goes on and on. Plus it’s all about retold fairy tales, which I love. I had to have this book.

It arrived when I was in Winnipeg at the World Horror Convention and by the time I got home I’d already started reading One (by Conrad Williams) and wasn’t willing to stop. Plus, I had all that pesky schoolwork and stuff to do. Bleh. However, I finished One on Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon I had to go pick my daughter up from choir and take her to salsa. I had another errand I needed to do which meant I was going to be sitting in her school hallway for at least half an hour waiting for her to get out of choir. There was no way I was going to bring my books and spread them all around me to work, so I grabbed my copy of Troll’s Eye View and away I went.

The cover is amazing. Kids walking down the hall would stop just to look at it and then scurry away (hopefully with the title embedded in their brains somewhere). The stories were fantastic too.

I finished the book Tuesday night. I know it’s a children’s book so this says nothing for my speed reading skills, but it should be noted that I passed up playing World of Warcraft in order to finish the book. That’s almost unheard of in my world LOL

I enjoyed all the stories, every single one. There wasn’t a weak link or a dud in the bunch as far as I’m concerned. Some of them were funny, some a little darker, all were unique and well worth reading. I think my favorite story of all of them was The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces by Ellen Kushner. As an oldest child myself I could totally relate to the main character and I really felt for her (and myself). Sometimes being responsible is a terrible burden.

I also adored Kelly Link’s The Cinderella Game and of course Garth Nix’s An Unwelcome Guest. For very different reasons. Garth’s story made me laugh out loud more than once but Kelly’s was far darker. A Delicate Architecture by Catherynne M. Valente is another story I won’t soon forget. It’s beautiful and dark and sweet. Oh so sweet. 😉

Now that I”m done reading it, I will let Danica borrow Troll’s Eye View and see what she thinks of it. I suspect her favorite stories will be Garth Nix’s An Unwelcome Guest and Wizard’s Apprentice by Delia Sherman but there’s only one way to find out for sure.

One by Conrad Williams

One by Conrad WilliamsI met Conrad at the World Horror convention and, having read and enjoyed his short stories in both Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural and Fast Ships Black Sails I was estatic to be given a chance to pick up his newest novel, One.

I was forced to read this book slower than I wanted to because I have a ridiculous amount of schoolwork to get through in a course I’m not enjoying — so I used One as my reward. Once I finished a section of schoolwork I allowed myself to read more of Conrad’s book. It was a great system, I loved the book so much it would motivate me to read the things I have to for school that (quite literally) put me to sleep.

One tells the story about the end of the world, and one man’s desperate attempt to get back to London and find his son. As a parent this is something I can totally relate to. In fact, when we were playing ‘What would you do if there was an EMP pulse that took out Winnipeg, etc, etc.’ my response was ‘Go west to my daughter’. No questions, no hesitations, no nothing. If the world goes to hell all around you, I think most parents responses would be the same. You love your partners but they are grown ups and able to fend for themselves…your children…not so much.

Thus, I was with Richard Jane every step of the way as he trudged across the country to get back to his son, Stanley. I understood his attachment to the last letter Stan had ever sent him, and I felt for him as he ventured through the wasteland that was now the world.

The story isn’t just about Richard looking for Stanley, there are many, many levels to it. Not least of all I was struck by how quickly our children grow up, how much we can miss if we aren’t looking. At one point Richard is thinking back to a time when he tucked Stanley (then three) in after a very full day. Conrad wrote: Best day of my life, Stanley. Thank you, mate. Night-night. So simple and yet, within context, so poignant. It made me cry when I first read it and even now makes me teary-eyed.

Conrad is a master storyteller and I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes survivor horror, apocalyptic stories, is a parent or has one.

I’ve asked Conrad to do an interview for Niteblade and he’s agreed, so hopefully in the near future I’ll be sharing a link to that. In the meantime — buy the book. Seriously.

One by Conrad Williams