Monday, 2 March 2015

Review: The Legacy Human by Susan Kaye Quinn

New Release: The Legacy Human (Singularity #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn #YA #SF
ebook and print

When transcending humanity is the prize, winning the Game is all that matters.

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

The Legacy Human is the first in Susan Kaye Quinn’s new young adult science fiction series that explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world… and how technology will challenge us to remember what it means to be human.

“If I were a movie producer, I would option this in a heartbeat.”
“This story is so intense I felt I couldn’t get a proper breath.”
“Science fiction with philosophical depth.”
Win paperbacks of The Legacy Human and Mindjack Trilogy, as well as other great prizes, and chat with some AMAZING Sci-Fi author-friends (check out the line-up below!). Giveaways run ALL DAY (9a – 9p Chicago Time, GMT-6)

SCHEDULE - Chicago Time (GMT-6) on March 2nd
9a - 10a - Sue (Singularity)
1p - 2p - Jennifer Wells (Fluency)
2p - 2:30p - Endi Webb? (Terran Gambit)
3p - 4p - Rysa Walker (Timebound)
5p - 5:30p - Wes Davies? (Binary Cycle)
5:30 - 7p - Sue (Singularity)
7p - 8p - E.E. Giorgi? (Chimeras)
8p - 9p - Jessica Keller? (Saving Yesterday)
Stop by ANYTIME to enter giveaways;  stop by during the guest-host hour to chat! (Join the party now!)

My review

Eli is a legacy human in a world where most humans have ascended, becoming perfect human-machine hybrids. He wants nothing more than to join them, but his legacy status means his pure human genes have to be preserved. But Eli's mother is dying from a disease the ascenders won't cure. The only way out is for Eli to enter the creative Olympics, winning ascension for himself and his family. The problem is, he can only create his best art when in a fugue state he doesn't understand.

I was immediately hooked. Susan Kaye Quinn has a gift for creating sympathetic characters and a writing style that grabs you and doesn't let go. All the characters are unique and three-dimensional, from Eli's supportive best friend Cyrus to the other contestants at the Olympics, to the ascended, who have motives of their own. Eli is a fantastic lead character and I was rooting for him from the first page. The high-stakes plot kept moving, never stalling. This is a gripping story which raises profound questions about technology and what makes us human. A compelling start to a series I'll certainly be continuing with!

Rating: *****

On a side note to indie authors: Susan's blog is a goldmine of useful information, and I really recommend it!

Writer Recharge Final Update!

It’s time for my final Writer Recharge update, a writing challenge hosted by Katy Upperman, Alison Miller, Liz Parker, Elodie Nowodazkij, and Sarah Biren. 
Full details here!

So, how did I do on my overall goals!

  • I finished the first draft of Alliance 6!
  • I proofread Adamant (Alliance, #1) for the last time, and ordered and approved the print proof! *eek!*
  • I contacted beta readers for Nemesis (Alliance, #2).
  • I read through the series and noted all the key background information in my Scrivener file. This is still an ongoing process, but I have the main details set in stone now! I've also made revision lists for each book (again, an ongoing process!).
  • I read more than half of the books on my NetGalley list!
  • I connected with other writers on Twitter. 
  • And I... tried to relax after finishing my series. Tried. I think I'm incapable of it. As long as I have access to a computer or notebook, I'm a compulsive writer!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

February reading round-up

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

I was incredibly lucky to receive a copy of The Walls Around Us for review from Netgalley. It's a haunting, dark and atmospheric thriller, the kind of tale that sticks in your memory long after you finish. The story is told by Amber, who is locked away in a juvenile detention centre, and Violet, a dancer, whose best friend is convicted for an equally terrible crime. Their lives intertwine through past and present in an expertly woven mystery. The suspense, told in hypnotic, fluent writing, kept me turning the pages without pause for breath.

I hesitate to share too much about the plot in case of spoilers, but it's intricate and gripping with a supernatural twist, and the ending is shocking, memorable, and brilliantly apt. Highly recommended.

The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2)

I enjoyed Samantha Shannon's debut novel, The Bone Season, and I was excited to see where she took the story next. The strongest part of this series is the intricate, detailed worldbuilding, from the clairvoyants to the sinister Emim and Rephaites. The majority of this book takes place in London's clairvoyant criminal community, where Paige lived before her time as a prisoner in Sheol 1. Some readers might find parts of this slow-paced, but I appreciated the depth of detail given to the clairvoyant underworld, and there's plenty of tension as Paige tries to spread word of the Rephaim and their plan. There's also a murder mystery, some fantastic action sequences, and a fantastic twist at the end which has made me intrigued to read the next book!

I picked up Anomaly because the concept really intrigued me - people with the ability to change reality with their thoughts. This is a fantastic YA sci-fi with an original twist, one I haven't read before. I loved the voice, and the lead characters are great. I'll be keeping an eye out for the sequel!

The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #2)

I also read The Providence of Fire, the sequel to Brian Staveley's epic fantasy The Emperor's Blades. It's just as action-packed and gripping as the first book!

The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines, #6)

The Ruby Circle, the final book in Richelle Mead's Bloodlines series, was another one-sitting read. There were a lot of unexpected twists and a fitting ending for the series which won't disappoint fans of either this series or Vampire Academy.

Of Shadow and Stone
Another Netgalley find was Of Shadow and Stone by Michelle Muto. I really enjoyed her NA horror The Haunting Season, which I reviewed a while ago, and I was really interested to read her first title for adults. This is an atmospheric and engaging paranormal fantasy. Of Shadow and Stone is a well-written story with an original paranormal twist. 
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I also read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. While the premise of this book initially seemed familiar, I was quickly drawn into the story. In Mare Barrow's world, the poverty-stricken lower-class Reds serve in the war while the ruling Silvers live in luxury. But when a Mare unexpectedly demonstrates powers usually gifted only to Silvers, she is forced to adopt a false identity and leave her family for the deadly world of the Silver court.

This is a compelling, intense read. I loved the concept of division by blood, and the fight scenes and superpowers were very creative. Mare is a strong protagonist and the side characters are all fully developed, keeping me guessing as to who had ulterior motives. There's just enough worldbuilding to paint a vivid picture while the story keeps moving at a quick pace, with twists and turns that left me breathless. A very strong start to a new YA fantasy trilogy - this series is one to watch!

The Infinite Sea (The Fifth Wave #2)
I finally picked  up The Infinite Sea, the sequel to The 5th Wave. This gripping alien apocalyptic sci-fi series is definitely worth the hype. Recommended!


A funny, imaginative YA portal fantasy with a great main character, humour, and vivid worldbuilding.

The Infinite (Gates of Thread and Stone, #2)

The Infinite is a great sequel to Gates of Thread and Stone, following a girl who can manipulate the threads of time. The worldbuilding is great, and there's plenty of action and betrayal.

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)

I must be the last person to pick up this book, but I was hooked from the first page. Fantastic writing, a gripping plot, great characters and romance - this is one of the best YA science fiction books I've read!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

#WIPMarathon: February Update

It's time for another #WIPMarathon update, hosted by the lovely Ifeoma Dennis!

Last report wordcount: I was at 16K of Alliance 6.

Current report wordcount:  I finished my draft at 79K words!!!!! O_O

WIP issues this month: Tying a series together is HARD. Really hard. And oh, the continuity issues...

Four things I learned this month in writing:
  • Novels are my thing. Other writing forms, I struggle with. I've been writing a short story for three months. It's 1000 words. In that time, I've written almost three novels. I think I know which I find easier. :P And I never did finish that second novella I started in June last year...
  • Draft first, make an edit list for later. I've got better at not being distracted by shiny new ideas, but sometimes I get the random impulse to edit a previous draft. I know editing can stop my writing process in its tracks, so I have working "edit lists" for each draft to tackle later. In fact, for this series, I now have a multiple-column editing spreadsheet, because I'm that hardcore. ;)
  • I definitely made the right choice fast-drafting the series back-to-back before publishing the first. Not only is the whole series now done, in draft form at least, it meant I could go back and sneak some more foreshadowing into the first book before it's published. I already know that I tend to have trouble concentrating on writing when I have a book release (especially the first in a series), and the crushing self-doubt strikes with a vengeance after publication... so this ought to take some of the pressure off!
  • Writing is a learning process. After I finished the Darkworld series (September 2013), I was at a loose end. I wrote several drafts over the next year, most of which... didn't turn out as planned (except The Clockmaker's Key, my MG fantasy). But I learned a lot in that year. I learned that I'm a slow planner but a fast drafter, that I work best when submerged in a WIP, writing madly like there's an angry grim reaper hovering over my shoulder. And I learned how to push through a draft even if the whole universe is conspiring against me (broken laptops, plagues, missing files, Scrivener crashing, Microsoft Word autosave fails...). I used all these things when I wrote the Alliance series, and that's how I wrote a six-book series in six months!
What distracted me this month when writing:  Nerves about Adamant coming out in 11 days!!!!! Exciterrifying! Also, paperback formatting, ordering proof copies, updating ebook files, flailing, falling over, walking into doors...

Goal for next month: Sleep? :P Nah, I'll be editing. A lot. I need to do second-round beta revisions on Nemesis (Alliance, #2) and book freelance edits. And I need to fix some of the big-picture issues across the series. Book 3 is still a jigsaw because I decided to rearrange half the scenes...

Last 200 words:

Spoilers. ;)

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What's Up Wednesday

It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading

I finally read The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. The sequel to The 5th Wave is just as gripping as the first book!

I also read Between by Megan Whitmer, a fun YA portal fantasy.

And I finally read These Broken Stars, and was totally hooked from the first page! I absolutely loved it!

What I'm writing

I'm... not drafting. For the first time in months, if not years. o.O But I am assembling a master editing spreadsheet for Books 3-6! The first step is fixing all the big-picture continuity/worldbuilding stuff across the series. My second drafts are all about fixing plot and character issues, adding in stuff that's missing and making sure sub-plots actually pay off and aren't forgotten. I'll also be checking for loose ends and character arcs and developments that aren't properly foreshadowed.

My writing goal this week: More brainstorming/edit list-making. Sorting out the mess I made of Book 3 when I rearranged half the scenes...

What works for me

Editing series books back-to-back. I'm in the early stages now, but I remember how much easier it was to see large-scale structure issues with the Darkworld series when I edited books 2-5 back-to-back. It actually meant fewer editing passes. Given that Adamant went through ten drafts, Nemesis is on Draft 7 and the novella's on Draft 6 and still not ready for betas, that might not happen this time around. :P But I'm hoping it'll save a few headaches!

What else is new

Well, the proof copy of Adamant arrived! :D 

Not only that, Walking Shadow is now available in paperback, so I could finally send some long-overdue contest prizes to winners. I now have copies of all three of my books. ^_^

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Liebster Award: 11 facts about me!

I've been tagged in the Liebster award challenge by Tori Centanni!


So, here are my answers to the questions:

1. What’s your favorite kind of scene to write?
Arguments. ;) Scenes with lots of tension and conflict. Also, action scenes!
2. What was the first story you ever wrote?
When I was five, I wrote my first "novel" about my teddy bear, Teddy Adams, complete with illustrations. But it wasn't until I was ten that I declared, "I'm going to be a writer". I guess you can call it a lifetime obsession!
3. What’s your drafting process like? Are you an outliner or a messy drafter or some combination of the two?
I'm a "plotser". I always have an outline, but I re-work it as I go along because I learn new things about my characters and the world as I write. Having the initial structure in place saves a lot of headaches (Scrivener is a lifesaver!), but I always leave room in case the characters decide to take the story in new directions.
4. Name a book you think everyone should read and explain why.
Just one? ;) Okay, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It's imaginative and clever and hilarious, and the characters are awesome. Especially Calcifer the fire demon. And Howl, of course.
5. What would you say is your greatest skill as a writer?
Another tricky one! Hmm... I think the word I've heard most often to describe my work is "original" and also "interesting". I take an idea that interests me and use it to create strange, fantastical worlds and magic systems I've never seen before.
6. What’s a genre or category you’ve never written in but would like to try your hand at?
Sci-fi! The Alliance series definitely has SF elements, but I've never written pure science fiction. In particular, I'm drawn to space opera, superhero stories and cyberpunk, and I do have some ideas for future projects!
7. If you could spend a week writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?
New Zealand. The pretty scenery! *sigh*
8. Do you make playlists of songs for your Works in Progress? If so, what’s a song from the current list?
It depends on the book! I haven't shared the playlist for this series because it's a constant work-in-progress (and some of it's actually spoilery for later books), but I planned the series while listening to Amaranthe (awesome melodic metal I found by total accident on YouTube and couldn't stop listening to). "Invincible" is my go-to song for motivation!
9. What’s been the most challenging aspect of writing or publishing for you so far?
Hmm... I think the toughest lesson has been accepting the sheer difficulty of "standing out", whether in querying or marketing. There are so many books already out there that luck is still a major factor in being discovered, and after spending years learning the writing craft, this was a bit disheartening to learn. But on the other hand, there are so many new opportunities open to authors now!
10. What’s one trope you love to pieces even if it’s overdone?
Secret (or not-so-secret) organisation fights monsters. *guiltily raises hand*
11. Describe your writing style in three words.
Fantastical, dark, odd.
11 random facts about me (I've done this before, so I'm trying to think of new things I haven't shared yet!)
  1. I've kept a journal since I was ten. And no, I'm not sharing my angsty teenage whining (or terrible poetry). :P
  2. I'm a hoarder. Not only do I have all my old notebooks and journals, I also have scrapbooks full of old train tickets and cinema tickets and boxes under the bed of random things I picked up over the years.
  3. I also have copies of almost all the stories I've ever written, including my first "books" (written between the ages of 5 and 8), some of my schoolbooks, and the story I wrote when I was 11 which inspired Walking Shadow.
  4. Lego is awesome. When I was eleven or twelve, I used to make Lego movies about adventures and monsters and do all the character voiceovers. And I still have my Lego, too. ^_^
  5. I was part of a Youth Theatre group for two years and did three major productions (including A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night). It was really fun, but I never auditioned for a major role because I got crippling stage fright. *sadface*
  6. Most of you guys probably already know this, but last year I went to Iceland, saw the Northern Lights and encountered a school of dolphins up close!
  7. When I went to Australia, I camped on a mountain for two weeks at an environmental centre, and saw koalas and wallabies in the wild! 
  8. I used to have an obsession with all things undersea-related. Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef was literally a dream come true.
  9. The snowstorm chapter in Darkness Watching is based on a real experience when our hiking group got stranded in the Lake District during a blizzard. It took twelve hours to get back to campus, and I couldn't feel my feet for a day.
  10. I love space, but I've never written SF... yet!
  11. I collect ornamental dragons. I currently have 17.

11 questions for the tagged to answer
  1. What's the best part of the writing process?
  2. Which fictional place would you love to visit?
  3. Which author has influenced you the most?
  4. Which book would you recommend in a genre you don't normally read?
  5. What important writing lesson have you learned in the past year?
  6. Series or standalones?
  7. Do you have a writing mascot?
  8. When you think of a new idea, what comes first - character, plot, or story world?
  9. Have you ever travelled to research a story?
  10. Which writing book or resource would you most recommend?
  11. Which fictional character would you like to meet?

I have no idea who's already been tagged in this, so I'm leaving this open to anyone who wants to answer the questions! :)

Monday, 23 February 2015

Writer Recharge Update #3

It’s time for a Writer Recharge update! This is a writing challenge hosted by Katy Upperman, Alison Miller, Liz Parker, Elodie Nowodazkij, and Sarah Biren. Writer Recharge is your chance for a four-week jump start in the middle of a cold, dreary winter. Set goals for yourself, check in once a week, and connect with other recharging writers.

Full details here!

  • This week, I finished my draft at 79,000 words! :D So the first goal on my list is officially complete! *dances everywhere*
  • Rather than diving right into edits, I'm brainstorming, list-making and worldbuilding. I actually add some of the smaller worldbuilding details in later drafts once the plot's sorted, so I'm having fun inventing cool things for potential use in the series (or spinoffs!).
  • The print proof of Adamant arrived, and aside from some minor issues, it was perfect! It's so SHINY. ^_^ I've now approved the final version!
  • I emailed second-round beta readers for Nemesis (Alliance, #2)! I'm hoping to have it ready for proofreading by mid-April, so I can release the book in June!
  • From my NetGalley list, I read Mind Games by Teri Terry. Next up: The Infinite by Lori M. Lee!