Encrypted Review

NewEncryptedThumbI recently read the book Encrypted by Lindsay Buroker. I read the excerpt she has posted on her blog (here) and liked it so much I went and bought the book. And then I spent all day one day reading it. It was lovely being able to take a whole day to read a book; I haven’t done that for years. I really enjoyed myself.

The book is fantasy and perhaps also steam punk. I say perhaps because (before this) I’ve never read any steam punk, so don’t feel I can say for sure if this book is part of that genre. But it does have steamships and steam operated machinery in it, so I’m assuming that qualifies it. It doesn’t take place in Victorian England, though, so I’m not sure if that disqualifies it.

The setting, as is typical of fantasy, is an imaginary world with imaginary countries. But this one’s refreshingly different. Instead of medieval Europe as seems to be the default template for fantasy worlds this one starts out on a tropical island. I liked the details like mention of bamboo and breezes blowing in from the ocean and jackfruit trees (which I’d never heard of, but sounds tropical). Later there’s the setting of a steamship and a frozen tundra like place. All these settings were different enough from standard fantasy fare that it caught my attention immediately.

The story starts out at the end of a war and is about a young woman who’s a cryptoanalyst whose job is to decode intercepted enemy transmissions. And she’s very good at her job, so good, that the enemy (who’s just lost the war, mainly due to her efforts) is on the hunt for her. And eventually they do catch up to her and capture her where she finds out that before they kill her for her role in the war they want her to translate some mysterious symbols for them. And I can’t tell you any more because then I would be revealing spoilers. But it just gets more interesting (and she gets deeper into trouble) from there.

I really liked the fact that the heroine is smart, educated, and to use the author’s own word, geeky. Since I am smart, educated, and geeky, I could identify with the heroine. I also wear glasses as she does, and have been known to be clumsy, as also she is. I think anyone who likes languages or science or math or puzzles would really identify with this heroine and would really enjoy this book. And if, like me, you’re looking for something a little different from the usual fantasy fare, then this book is one you’ll definitely want to look into. I think you’ll enjoy it. And at $2.99 (as of this writing) the price is quite reasonable and is almost risk-free.

And the hero is a hotty, of course, at least after he gets cleaned up.

And if, after that, you’re still not sure, read the excerpt. I’ll bet you’ll get hooked, like I did. This would also make a great Christmas present for that bookworm on your list. (Yes, we bookworms really do like to get books for Christmas, even ebooks — really, we do.) There’s also a short story sequal called “Enigma.” I enjoyed that one too.

[Disclaimer: I’m not an affiliate, so I don’t get any money if you buy the book. Nor was I asked to review the book. I’m reviewing it because I enjoyed it.]

What books have you enjoyed recently?

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My First Ebook — A Christmas Story

In time for Christmas, my first ebook is now published! I have published a Christmas short story about the wise men called Star of Stars.

Star of Stars 1563x2500It is a story of a young magus (singular of magi) named Rashan who makes two journeys — one of faith and one to the West to find a new king, heralded by a new star in the sky.

For centuries the nightly dance of the stars has been observed and recorded and can be used to predict the destinies of men and, it is believed, also the gods. Rashan believes in the stars, and he also believes in the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster) who prophesied of a coming king. And so when a new star is discovered that clearly heralds the birth of someone very important, he is excited, until it is found that the star indicates the Great One has been born in the West, not the East, as the prophet had predicted.

Rashan joins the expedition to find the new king and pay him homage but not without doubts. All his beliefs and certainties about religion and the way the world worked is now put into doubt. On the journey he struggles with his doubts, trying to discover what he truly believes and what is real. And when the magi arrive at their destination Rashan finds an answer that transcends even the stars.

For an excerpt, click here.

This would make a great story to read and share during this Christmas season.

Available at online retailers like Amazon.com, Smashwords.com (which offers a variety of formats, including epub), and other online retailers. Links will be added as soon as they go live.

I Won Nanowrimo 2012!

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is over for another year. That’s why the blog was inactive for all of November — I was busy writing a novel for nanowrimo. And I succeeded! I started out the month behind, but I made it to the finish line of 50,000 words by November 29, with one day to spare.

My story I was working on (and still am as I’m trying to finish it) is about ninjas, although as I explain on the story’s page, I’m going to eventually call them something else. People have expectations about what ninjas are and what they do and I want a lot of creative license with mine. So to avoid confusion I’ll be changing what I call them just as soon as I think of something I like. After that only me (and you who are reading this) will know they ever were ninjas.

I had a real fun time this November as I met up with a group of local people who were also doing Nanowrimo. They kept me motivated, and the write-ins I attended and the Word Wars (a friendly competition to see who can write the most words in a specified amount of time) we had helped my word count. So a big shout-out to the Cola Wrimos!

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Mr. Bones

When I was a child each October my mom would decorate our house for Halloween. By today’s standards she didn’t do much. There were some window clings and a few cardboard decorations, mostly of black cats, that she would hang up. But the one I remember the most was a small, cardboard skeleton. Even after we stopped celebrating Halloween (for religious reasons) we would still hang the skeleton up.

Why? Because we, my brothers and I, insisted on it. Why? We loved “Mr. Bones.”

You see, when I was quite small I was afraid of that skeleton. Skeletons were and are scary. They represent death and death is scary. As a preschooler I couldn’t verbalize that, but I didn’t need to. Such is hardwired into the human brain. Certain things are scary. And Halloween recognizes those things, and both mocks that fear but also celebrates human mastery over that which frightens us.

My mom didn’t want her children frightened of a simple Halloween decoration. So she gave it a name. She said, “This is nothing to be scared of. This is Mr. Bones. He’s a nice skeleton. He’s a friendly skeleton.” She personalized the cardboard skeleton, giving it a name, giving it a personality. He was posable, meaning his arms and legs move, and she let me play with it for a bit, moving its arms and legs, before she hung it up. At first I remember I didn’t like looking at it, but always, Mom reminded me that this was “Mr. Bones.” And a skeleton with a name couldn’t be as scary as one without, could it? Gradually I lost my fear. Mr. Bones was a friendly skeleton.

Each year I looked forward to getting Mr. Bones out and hanging him up. I delighted in introducing him to my brothers as they got old enough to be frightened of him and watched them overcome their fear and embrace the friendly skeleton decoration, Mr. Bones, as I had. For me, even though I would not have and could not articulate it, Mr. Bones was a symbol of overcoming fear, of the scary being made familiar, even friendly.

And so, this year, I decided that I would decorate my house for Halloween. I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew I wanted a skeleton if I could get one. A plastic one would be fine if I couldn’t find one like my childhood “Mr. Bones.” So I went to a Halloween store in my area, and I not only found a skeleton, but a cardboard, posable skeleton, just like Mr. Bones! Only my Mr. Bones is quite a bit larger than the original Mr. Bones.

He is now hanging proudly on a nail just by my front door where I can see him each time I come in. (He’s protected from the weather by a covered, glassed-in front porch, for those who were wondering. That’s the sort of thing I would wonder.) He still looks alarming, but I just remember he’s Mr. Bones. He’s a nice skeleton. He’s a friend.

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Hero Post 1: Anthony Barrett (and Mom and Friend)

The definition of a hero is someone who is admired for his or her courage, strength, and noble qualities. But I think the definition of a hero is broader than that. To me a hero is anyone who overcomes adversity or obstacles to do the right thing or to achieve his or her dreams or goals. Even ordinary people can be heros. That’s what being one’s own hero is all about — overcoming the obstacles life places in our path and not letting adversity defeat us.

Anthony Barrett is one such everyday hero. So is his mom, Deborah Barrett, and his friend and personal assistant, Mike Hamm. Anthony has autism. There are people who believe those with autism will never be able to have any kind of meaningful life, and before anyone gets mad, I do recognize that there many different “levels” or degrees of autism. That’s why they call it a spectrum. But this is one family that didn’t let autism keep them down. Deborah Barrett and Mike Hamm are helping Anthony Barrett start his own business, Anthony At Your Service. He travels around Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, delivering items for customers. That’s amazing! It’s amazing for anyone to start their own business. It can be scary and takes discipline. Anthony, however, is not only showing courage and self-discipline, but the kind of unstoppable determination to meet one’s goals in life regardless of any adversity that makes him a hero.

Check out his video: