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Fun Read/Melting Shadows by Rhea Rhodan September 19, 2017

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51JiFT1cPRLThe word that came to mind as I read Melting Shadows was fun. It has spunky dialogue, humor, a fantasy world that parallels this world, a touch of magic, simmering romance, quickly characters, danger, heroes, evil villains, smart women, and handsome men willing to die to protect the women they love.

 

The novel is great escape reading. Forget your to-do list and emerge yourself in this entertaining story where the answers to what’s going to happen in the character’s world lie in the OtherWhere where things reveal themselves before they happen here.

 

Prudence is a brilliant scientist working on a secret project for the government. She had a dark upbringing that caused her to be a recluse. She’s socially awkward and takes everything literally. Her project for the military has put her at risk and she’s taken to a safe house. There she’s shocked to discover the owner of the bunker, x-seal Max, looks just like the hero of her fantasy novels.

 

Max reluctantly gives Prudence shelter. Yet the “ice woman” he’s responsible for, is a mystery that he is more and more interested in unraveling– even to the point of invading her privacy.

 

I highly recommend this book to those who love contemporary romance with a touch of paranormal. Note: there is some adult content and a lot of swearing. The first part of the book mainly deals with the development of the relationship between Max and Prudence. The second part of the book speeds up when the bunker is breached by the enemies and danger erupts.

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Five qualities of a good novel as shown in the book Shane July 25, 2017

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51rRxrScknL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading the classic western Shane by Jack Schaefer, which was published in 1949 and made into a movie in 1953.  The novel set me to reflecting on what made it a best-seller that is still read in schools and has stayed popular for so many years.  As the St. George Daily Spectum wrote: “Shane is a work of literature first and a Western second.”  What qualities does it have that make it a work of literature?

Interestingly, the novel opens at a slow pace.  Today’s writers are taught to open with action or grab the reader’s attention in some way.  However, in this book the author takes his time introducing the characters and setting. The result is very effective.

Here is the opening paragraph: “He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89.  I was a kid then, barely topping the backboard of father’s old chuckwagon.  I was on the upper rail of our small corral, soaking in the late afternoon sun, when I saw him far down the road where it swung into the valley from the open plain beyond.” (p. 1)

For the next eight paragraphs, the boy continues to describe the horseman as he rides closer and closer, then finally into the farmstead where the boy observes him.

This slow pace allows the reader to see the stranger and enter into the world the boy, Bob, lives in.  It is told from the intimate first-person point of view.  We see the horseman, the small town, the river and the fork in the road as the rider draws closer and finally into view.  Bob tells us the stranger’s clothes are different from the local people.  He wears tall boots and a belt, both made of a soft black leather tooled in intricate design and a “finespun” linen shirt.

A child’s viewpoint is an interesting way to tell the story because Bob is a keen observer of life, yet he is young and doesn’t understand everything that’s going on.  We, as the reader, left to our own interpretation of people and events, have deeper insights into what is going on.

The plot is fairly straight-forward.  Bob and his parents live on a farm and a mysterious stranger rides onto their land and asks for a drink of water.  The father, Joe, soon recognizes that Shane is the kind of man whom nobody will push around and asks him to stay as a farmhand.

Shane hires on and is loyal to the family, so when a powerful rancher tries to drive out the local farmers, Shane is pulled into the deadly conflict.

The story focuses more on character development than action and the topics of courage, honor, love and heroes are explored.

The book is relatively short, yet it will draw you in from the beginning and keep you reading to the end, leaving you to ponder its depth and layers of meaning.

The reader never does find out about Shane’s background and what it is he’s trying to escape.  He finds serenity and inner peace on the farm, but this is broken by the tension in town between the farmers and the large rancher.

So what makes this a good novel?

  1. It has well-developed characters with heroic qualities that we care about.
  2. It has an interesting plot with high stakes, both in terms of how the outcome will affect the character’s lives and how it will force them to grow and change.
  3. It has great descriptions and metaphors. Here is the boy’s description of a stump. “It was big enough, I used to think, so that if it was smooth on top you could have served supper to a good-sized family.” (p. 18)
  4. The author, Jack Schaefer, shows the reader what’s going on instead of telling him, leaving the reader to interpret the situation.
  5. The story has good pacing that gradually builds to the climatic ending.

In conclusion, Shane is a great read for anyone who enjoys a good western.  For writers, it’s an interesting study in what makes a good novel.  As you read the book, look for the five qualities listed above and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What draws the reader into a story and keeps them there?
  2. What universal values and ideas make the story worth telling?

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section.  What do you think makes a good novel?  What qualities do you look for in a book?

If you’ve read Shane, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the characters and story.

 

Review of Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum June 29, 2017

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51oy3dgHDYLIf you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, pick up The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour.  A friend recommended this book and I’m glad he did because it was an exciting and educational read.

L’Amour published his first novel in 1953 and every one of his over 120 books are still in print.  There are 300 million copies of his books worldwide.  He is one of the bestselling authors of modern times.  Forty-five of his novels have been made into films.

He is best known for capturing the spirit of the American West.  This novel, written in his later years, is a departure from those books. It takes place in the 12th century, starting out in France, crossing medieval Europe and the Russian steppes, and finally ending in Constantinople.

Young Mathurin Kerbouchard of Brittany is thrust into a violent, dangerous world when he returns from a fishing expedition and finds his mother murdered and his home burned to the ground.  He barely escapes with his life only to be captured and forced to be a galley slave.

In L’Amour’s usual style, Kerbouchard goes from one adventure to another as he sets off on a quest to find his father (who is reported to be killed at sea or sold into slavery) and revenge his mother. Kerbouchard is bold to a fault, trained by the Druids to have an amazing memory, and a seeker of knowledge who can speak and write many languages (an unusual talent for the times).  He is skilled with a sword, but also relies on his wit as he works toward achieving his nearly impossible goals.

The book is broad in scoop and covers several years as Kerbouchard grows into manhood.  He faces life with courage and honor, making friends and enemies along the way.  He is a unique character whom the reader will remember long after they finish the book.  We see the 12th century world through Kerbouchard’s active, intelligent mind.  He travels from the dark, dirty cities in France where the Christian church forbids new ideas and books are rare, to the Moslem cities of Spain where books are plentiful and scholars are valued.

The book reads quickly, especially the first half, which is filled with one hair-raising adventure after another.  But it slows down in places where Kerbouchard, a brilliant scholar interested in different ideas and places, tells us the history of the city he’s traveled to and shares his philosophy of life with other scholars.

In his Author’s Notes section, L’ Amour said he was fascinated by this period of history.  He feels that our schools ignore two thirds of world.  “Of China, India and the Muslim world almost nothing is said, yet their contribution to our civilization was enormous, and they are now powers with which we must deal both today and tomorrow, and which it would be well for us to understand.  

“One of the best means of introduction to any history is the historical novel.” p. 462

L’Amour planned to write two more books about Kerbouchard’s adventures; regrettably, he died before he completed them.

I was partly intrigued by the book because I also researched this area of the world for my book Annoure and the Dragon Ships.  My historical saga is set almost 400 hundred years earlier and takes the reader from Saxon England, to Viking Norway, to the Russian steppes.  It was interesting to see how the world had changed over those four centuries.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating, exciting adventure filled with treachery, violence, passion, love and friendship, check out The Walking Drum by best-selling author Louis L’Amour.

Book review of The Immortal Life of Piu Piu: A Magical Journey Exploring the Mystery of Life after Death (Dance Between Worlds Book 1) January 25, 2017

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41fel8exsnlAfrican author Bianca Gubalke has written an uplifting visionary fiction novel about the journey of soul. It started out in the first chapter with Anata, a soul in the inner realms, talking to an elder about her next life. She’s picked a hard life for her spiritual advancement in a small village in Western Cape coast of South Africa. A place that is beautiful with numerous plant species, animals, mountains, and ocean.

The elder warned Anata that her memory of who she really is as soul will disappear so she can create a new life. She won’t remember her true home but will search for it.

In the second chapter, we met a little girl named Pippa and MadMax (a delightful talking cat). They heard a peep and find a little gosling on the ground. Pippa brought it into the house, determined to take care of the small, helpless creature. Thus begins the tale of Pippa, MadMax and her goose Piu Piu.

The story explored the loving relationship between humans and animals and included many beautiful photographs of plants and animals.

The novel had a powerful message because it delved into the spiritual realms and the longing of soul to return home in a time when many baby boomers are wondering what happens after they die.

In places, the story of Piu Piu, the goose, reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Both birds long for freedom.

The book also reminded me of Oversoul Seven by Jean Roberts, which is about Oversoul Seven who runs three bodies at once in different times and places as part of his education.

I was exposed to the idea that soul takes part in choosing their next life in Dr. Michael Newton’s work Journey of Souls and Life Between Lives. Dr. Newton hypnotized people to take them back to their childhood so they could heal. Once when he hypnotized someone they ended up in the inner realm where soul goes between lives. After that Dr. Newton took many people back to their life between lives on earth and asked soul about their experience there.

In the Immortal Life of Piu Piu I was fascinated to see how Bianca was able to weave together the idea of soul living more than one life and choosing that life based on what that soul needed to learn for its spiritual growth. I especially enjoyed the action-filled second half of the book that shares the backstory of Poppa’s parents during a raging forest fire.

The end of the book was a treat for it nicely tied up the whole book and brought clarity to the story.

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy visionary fiction. You might find yourself wondering if this is simply a magical world where animals talk, have human emotions and past life memories or if there is a golden thread of truth that can help us in our own journey home.

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you have any memories of a past life?  Do you think we decide what our next life will be?

Here is a wonderful book trailer of the novel.

Check out Heidi Skarie’s website bluestarvisions.com where you can get a free short story and get on her newsletter.

Book Review of The Bears and I by Robert Franklin Leslie November 15, 2016

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51f5sntxuml-_ac_us160_A friend gave my husband The Bears and I.  I picked it up to see what it was about and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

The story is set in the wilderness of British Columbia where Bob, the author, is panning for gold for the summer when an old sow bear leaves him with triplet orphaned black bear cubs.  Bob’s heart goes out to the small creatures that he describes as the size of teddy bears and he decides to raise them until they are old enough to survive on their own.  The cubs end up sharing his cabin even sleep with him in his sleeping bag.

What makes this story remarkable is the amazing bond of love that develops between Bob and these three bear cubs and the insights we gain into bears.  After reading this book I don’t think I’ll ever look at them the same.  The bear cubs each had a distinct personality and enjoyed playing tricks on each other. They also had a wonderful spirit of fun and adventure.

As the cubs grew older they also learned to hunt together and to protect each other. They were highly intelligent creatures and soon learned their names and to respond to simple voice commands and gestures.  Like when there was danger Bob would say tree and point to the tree and they would run up it.

The book is also an exciting adventure story especially in the first half as Bob tries to keep these three cubs alive against all the dangers of the wilderness including predators that eat bear cubs.  There is also devastating fire that sweeps across the forest they live in and a harrowing journey by canoe deeper into the wilderness with a winter’s worth of supplies.

The author vividly describes nature with its planets, flowers, birds, animals and changes in season in such detail that I felt I was right there with him every step of the way.

It helped that I’ve had enough of my own experience in the wilderness to relate to his.  I’ve been backpacking in the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains in the United States and in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve also been canoeing in the Boundary waters wilderness of the US and Canada.  I’ve experienced having a bear come to my campsite at night and breaking the branch of a tree where we’d carefully tied up our food bag ten feet above the ground.  I’ve also paddled a canoe across rough lakes in the rain with high winds and chopping waves.

I could also relate to Bob’s winter experiences with deep snow and long months of cold weather as I lived just across the Canadian border in Minnesota.

Moreover, the book is enjoyable because the writing is excellent with detailed descriptions, original metaphors and good insights into life.  Bob wrestles with questions like how much of the wilderness should be a game refuge or park and how to do we protect wild animals.  Bob also ponders the questions of why animals live by killing one another and why is there are forest fires, which wipe out so many of the creatures that live there.

The book was written 1971 and made into a Walt Disney movie in 1974.  I haven’t seen the movie but from the movie trailer it looks to be a fun family movie with three cute, mischievous cubs and beautiful scenery.

Do you have any good stories to share about a wild animal?  I loved to hear them.

S Collin Ellsworth, Finding the Route 40 Phantom September 29, 2016

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41dcma-8gjlS Collin Ellsworth is one of the authors in the recently published anthology Where Rivers Converge. For the anthology, she wrote a gripping short story entitled Coward about a hit and run woman driver.

Ellsworth’s novels feature elements of life after death interwoven in the lives of women. She writes witty women and comical children that appeal to readers looking for relatable characters.

Her latest novel, Finding the Route 40 Phantom weaves two different women from different times: Natalie, an eighteen-year-old living in the 1950s with ambitions ahead of the era and Alexandra, a small town newspaper writer who constantly has to justify her contentment to her intellectual mother and sister. The two women’s lives intersect with the mystery of the Route 40 Phantom.

The Route 40 Phantom is a Southern Ohio legend. In the early fifties, a man terrorized the truckers of Route 40 by driving dressed as a skeleton. Despite not being an actual ghost, the Route 40 Phantom appears on many Haunted Ohio history sites. The real phantom’s identity remains a mystery. In her novel, Ellsworth gave him a persona of a beatnik mechanic with mysterious intention.

Filled with, suspense, and bucolic charm; Finding the Route 40 Phantom is a great fall read.

 

 

Book Review by Heidi Skarie, Dream Yourself Awake by Darlene Montgomery September 22, 2016

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41danpw89l-_sx298_bo1204203200_Dream Yourself Awake One Woman’s Journey to Uncover Her Divine Purpose through Dreams

Years ago Montgomery realized her dreams were relating to her waking life.  She found they revealed recurring themes and lessons. The images and feelings she began to see formed a map that led to her purpose as Soul. Montgomery states, “Dreams tell a story about Soul’s everlasting wish to journey back home to God.” (p. 18)

The basic premise of the book is that if you have a yearning to know your purpose in life, Spirit will let Soul see its greater destiny and clear away illusions. The law of growth drives Soul on.

Each chapter begins with an insightful quote. Then Montgomery shares a dream, waking dream or inner experience and gives her interpretation of it as she sheds light on the spiritual side of what she’s experiencing.

In the sixth chapter, The Messengers of Life, she quotes from Marianne Williamson: “Ultimately, it is not our credentials but our commitment to a higher purpose that creates our effectiveness in the world.” (p. 28)

In this chapter Montgomery explains that Divine Spirit guides us to experiences that remind us of agreements we made before we were born into this life. Messengers in life may come to us as teachers, friends, movies and books. The people around us show us qualities inside ourselves and help us figure out our life’s mission.

Montgomery also shares what she learned about her career as a writer. In one dream, Montgomery meets Oprah Winfrey. She realized Oprah’s dream appearance intended to awaken her “to my own potential as a voice of change in the world” (p. 11) In the same chapter she says, “To write a book is to open a door literally into another world. Every work of art leaves an impression, which shapes the thoughts of others and more importantly their dreams.” (p. 13)

In Dream Yourself Awake, Montgomery takes the reader on an intimate journey. Through Montgomery’s experience, we see our own fears, failings and limiting ideas. We also see our ability to grow, learn, overcome these limitations and move into a place of love, abundance and gratitude. We see how we are divine sparks of God and how our dreams are here to teach us, give us truth and help us deal with challenges. When we pay attention, dreams will tell us about our higher goals and we can wake up, as Montgomery did. We can become strong spiritual beings, aware that we are children of God, knowing we are powerful, loving beings.

While writing this blog post, I had a waking dream experience at the end of my yoga class. The instructor said she had a quote to share and I knew it was related to this post. The quote is from the inspiring author, Marianne Williamson:

“Relationships are our primary teacher. They are the context in which we either grow into God consciousness, or deny ourselves and others the opportunity to do so.”

Have you had dreams, waking dreams or inner experience that helped you wake up to a higher truth about yourself on your journey home to God? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

Annoure and the Dragon Ships by Heidi Skarie December 21, 2015

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Author Notes about Annoure and the Dragon Ships.

I’m excited to finally see Annoure and the Dragon Ships make its entrance into the world of literature. Annoure and Thorstein are finally getting a chance to share their story.

I carefully researched this period of history and did my best to make it accurate. Although the Norsemen had runes for writing on stone and labeling things, they didn’t have books that would have left a more detailed picture of their lives.

Much of what we know about them has comes from archeologist and the people who they invaded who didn’t portray them in a favorable light.

We do know the Norsemen’s longships were an important part of their culture. They were fast, sleek and shallow-drafted, which allowed them to travel up rivers and come into shallow water.

In writing the book I used some Norse words to make the story more authentic. Since the Norse language was before the time of dictionaries, the names given to words varies, as does the spelling of those words. I chose to take the most commonly used words and their spellings of the words such as “sonr” for son.

Even the word “Viking” is a more modern term to refer to the Norsemen. They didn’t call themselves Vikings. They said would say they were going “a-viking” when they planned a trading expedition or went on a raid.

The Viking Age began with an attack on the monastic settlement of Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast on England in Northumbria.

My story starts a year later when five dragon ships sailed up the River Thyne and attacked the St. Paul’s Church at Jarrow. They burned the two monasteries, killed or kidnapped the priest and monks, and fought the soldiers and villagers who tried to stop them. Their war leader was killed during the attack.

As the Norsemen left, a terrible storm arose and two of the dragon ships sank. The Norse warriors who survived the shipwrecks swam to shore and were then killed by the villagers and soldiers.

Historians disagree as to where the Norsemen who attacked Jarrow came from. For the purpose of my book I chose to have them come from what is now known as Norway.

While researching the book, I traveled to England and visited St. Paul’s Church. The church is still in use after over a thousand years. Beside it are the remains of the two monasteries that were destroyed in the Viking raid.

Nearby was an exhibit of a reconstructed medieval village complete with live animals. I was delighted to see what a village would have looked like back then with its thatched-roofed houses and twisted-branched fences.

Later I made a trip to Norway with my husband who is a one-hundred-percent Norwegian. I wanted to visit Rosendal where Thorstein’s family homestead was located on the west coast of Norway, an area famous for its fjords.

We flew into Stavanger where we rented a car and started our journey. We drove through a tunnel cut out of bedrock under a bay, traveled by car ferry, and drove on narrow mountain roads though some of the most beauty country in the world. Obviously the area has changed in over a thousand years yet the mountains, ocean, the nearby island (where Thorstein’s neighbors lived) and fjord are the same. Being there helped me write more realistically about the area.

I hope the story depict the Norsemen in way that shows their strengths and weaknesses and gives you a glimpse into their lives.

 

Interview with KS Ferguson, the author of CALCULATED RISK a mystery, SF book March 25, 2015

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I  recently read Calculated Risk, an exciting mystery story that takes place in outer space. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to do an author interview to find out more about the author and why she wrote the book. I’m sure you’ll find her answers as interesting as I did.

 

What inspired you to become a writer?

I didn’t have a choice about becoming a writer. It’s in my DNA. I started writing stories when I was ten. But being a writer for a living seemed like an impossible dream, so I did lots of other things for years and years before finding my way to a tech writing career. Some modest success there convinced me to throw myself into fiction writing.

 

What is Calculated Risk about?

Calculated Risk is the story of two people finding their way to trust in a future where sociopathic corporations run the galaxy. Rafe, a capitalistic security company owner estranged from his family since he was a teen, is obliged to repay a debt of honor by investigating his brother-in-law. He goes to a mining station in the Asteroid Belt to determine why his brother-in-law, the CEO of a huge ag corporation, has insisted on purchasing the station. At the station, Rafe meets Kama, a genius corporate spy and computer hacker there on a mission to retrieve a secret document that has accidently fallen into the hands of the station manager. But the manager is missing. Isolated on the station together, Rafe and Kama must work together to unravel a web of blackmail, fraud, and murder that threatens the future of millions of Earth’s downtrodden poor.

Why did you write this book?  Can you tell us the story behind the book?

Authors are advised to write what they like to read, and I read science fiction, fantasies, mysteries, and thrillers. It seemed natural to write a mystery in a futuristic setting with thriller pacing and a strong relationship thread. (But it’s a nightmare to market!) After ten years of working in corporate America, I had strong feelings about that world and how it’s shaped our society. That became the backdrop. I wanted the focus to be on the characters and how they find their way through their personal fears to a relationship of trust. And everything I write turns into a mystery eventually, so there are clues and suspects with the occasional chase or explosion thrown in.

What research did you do when writing the book such as corporate fraud and space stations?

The psychology community has turned out some interesting studies on how corporations behave like sociopaths, and how the upper management of many corporations are rewarded for psychopathic traits. I found those studies fascinating, and they certainly mirrored my personal experience in a Fortune 500 corporation. For pleasure, I read a lot about NASA and other space projects. The space station setting didn’t require much additional research.

 

There are two main characters in the story, Kama and Rafe.  How did they grow and change from their experience?  Did you learn anything about yourself while writing the book?

Rafe and Kama are polar opposites in their belief systems. He’s a capitalist who believes in law and order. She’s a socialist who favors justice over law. They have to look past their differences to see the deeply caring individuals underneath. Then they have to trust that person because neither of them can solve the mystery without help from the other. Following a near-death experience, Rafe reveals why he’s estranged from his family. It’s a guilt-ridden secret he’s carried for fourteen years. Kama initially sees Rafe as a stereotypical  smarmy, lying corporate executive. As she discovers that he’s a man who cares deeply about others to the point of sacrificing his life for them, she’s forced to change her thinking.

This book is part of a series.  How many other books are published?  How many will there be total?

Calculated Risk is the first in the series. Hostile Takeover takes up where the first book left off and is available now. In it, readers get a deeper look at Rafe’s dysfunctional family and Harvest, EcoMech Corp’s colony planet. Kama’s there to help and support Rafe, but their relationship travels a rocky road while they defend EcoMech and Rafe’s family. The third in the series, Family Owned, will be available late in 2015. We’ll travel to Oasis Corp to see Kama’s past and her own train-wreck family. She’ll reveal the dark secret that she believes will turn Rafe away her forever. There will be more books as Rafe and Kama continue to solve crimes and build a future together.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your book?

Just that if readers try the series and enjoy it, please leave a review. Reviews are the life blood for indie authors in search of a new audience and are very much appreciated.

Do you have a website or blog? 

I don’t have a blog. There aren’t enough hours in the day! But I do have a website where I announce release schedules and post a few bits and pieces of things about the characters, including some interviews Rafe and Kama participated in, and information about my other two series. My website is at http://www.ksferguson.net.

 

Interview with Virginia McClain author of Blade’s Edge February 23, 2015

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Blade's Edge

Blade’s Edge

Recently, I read a wonderful fantasy book entitled Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain.  The characters are well developed, plot intricate and the setting influenced by Japan.  The book is about two young girls living in an orphanage who have powers that they must hide.  They eventually become separated and the story follows each of their lives.
I loved the cover art that was done by artist Juan Carlos Barquet.
Here is a description of the book:
The Kisōshi, elite warriors with elemental powers, have served as the rulers and protectors of the people of Gensokai for more than a thousand years. Though it is believed throughout Gensokai that there is no such thing as a female Kisōshi, the Rōjū ruling council goes to great lengths to ensure that no one dares ask why.
Even as young girls, Mishi and Taka know that they risk severe punishment – or worse – if anyone were to discover their powers. This shared secret forms a deep bond between them until, taken from their orphanage home and separated, the two girls must learn to survive in a world where their very existence is a crime. Yet when the girls learn the dark secret of the Rōjū council, they discover that much more than their own survival is at stake.
After reading the book, I asked the author for an interview.  Her answers were quite interesting.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. Even as a child I would write down ridiculous stories (written in crayon, and largely illegible, to start with) and share them with my mom, who always thought they were brilliant (as mothers do). Then when I was in middle school I had an English teacher who actually told me that my creative writing was good and that she enjoyed my stories. She encouraged me to write more and asked me if I wanted to become a writer. That was the first time anyone other than my mother had told me I was a good writer, or made me wonder if it was something I could do for a job. I decided it was, and I’ve been working (slowly) towards becoming a writer ever since.
How did you come up with the idea for Blade’s Edge?
 
Actually, the idea started because, as I was living in Japan and spending a lot of time hiking to secluded mountain shrines and temples, I started to wonder what it would be like if all of the shinto spirits were actually real and able to influence the world. Then I started to wonder what magic would be like if it were based on certain zen meditation practices. Ultimately, the book became something very different than a simple answer to those questions, but it was how the initial spark for the story started.
The world you created is very detailed.  How did you come up with it?
 
Well, the last question answers part of this, but the rest of it is that I stole a lot of inspiration from the Japanese landscape, and from feudal Japan. Of course Gensokai (the world in which Blade’s Edge takes place) is completely fictitious, but it’s inspired by Japan and feudal Japanese samurai culture. Living in Japan, having access to a lot of Japanese history even in the small and remote city I was living in, and having that cultural experience to draw from certainly helped me detail the imaginary world I created in my head.
You had interesting names for your characters.  How do you come up with them?
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Virginia McClain

 
Most of the names of the characters are the names of animals in Japanese (Taka is the word for Hawk, for example), but not all. Others are Japanese words that suited the characters’ personalities or physical traits (Mishi’s name is an abbreviation of an infrequently used word for ‘strange’ for example) and others are actual Japanese names.
What is the most important theme in the book?
I prefer to let readers answer that question for themselves. Everyone’s experience of the book is likely to be quite different, and I don’t want to sway anyone else’s experience with the text. However, without getting too specific, I would hope that the book raises some questions in readers’ minds about gender norms, and how they affect us as a society.
What experiences from your own life helped you write this book?
Wow. That’s a difficult question to narrow down. Obviously my time in Japan, but also my whole life leading up to that point and since. How’s that for a broad answer? Honestly, though, my experiences with martial arts training, contact sports, and the fact that my parents always went out of their way to treat me the same way they treated my brother, all affected my ability to write this particular book. Hopefully, that makes sense to those that have read the book already, and is sufficiently vague and intriguing to those who haven’t read it yet.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I don’t think so. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask me these questions and for sharing them with your readers!
The author’s website is: http://www.virginiamcclain.org/
Here is the book trailer:
If you’re looking for a good fantasy novel, check out Blade’s Edge.
I’m always interested in hearing your thoughts and comments so feel free to share them.