Guest Author Beth Cato: Five Influences
Hello! I’m Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger duology and the in-progress Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. The first book in that series, Breath of Earth, came out last year, and Call of Fire is out on August 15th. Both of my series are classified as steampunk, which means they take basic Victorian and Edwardian historical elements and add some retro-futuristic twists, like airships and other fantastical elements. My books always mix in magic, too.
I’m known for mashing together genres in both my novels and short stories. I draw inspiration from all sorts of things, but there are five major sources that have had an undeniable influence on my work.
– Star Wars
I was born in 1980, and into a household that my older brother already had lined with stormtroopers. The Star Wars soundtrack record album was on constant play. There was never a time I did not know Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. In my writing, I love to cheer for the underdog. I love to see my bad guys have a shot at redemption. And yes, I enjoy a chance to play with the magic/the Force.
I was horse-obsessed as a kid. I read every horse book in the library, and bought new and used books galore. I’d pick up anything with a horse on the cover. This helped me to read widely, from historical fiction to Serendipity fantasy books to the Black Stallion books. I took riding lessons for a few years but never had the chance to own a horse of my own. Even so, the love has never gone away. I often draw on my knowledge of horses in my current writing.
– Final Fantasy games
Role-playing games for the Nintendo and Super Nintendo were my gateway to fantasy literature in my teens. Games were like living books for me, and none snared me like Final Fantasy IV did (known as 2 in its original American release). I was 11 when it came out. That game was my world. I did artwork, fan fiction, everything. Within months, I had started writing a fantasy novel of my own.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder
I first picked up Wilder’s books because of a horse on the cover. I soon found myself enthralled by Pa’s fiddle and locust invasions and dire blizzards. Those books started a full-on historical fiction and nonfiction obsession that continues today. Steampunk involves a major historical element, and that’s especially true with my current series set in an alternate 1906.
Baking? Yes, really! Food is a huge part of world-building in my books. It’s an important part of life, period. I maintain a food blog at BethCato.com and post a new recipe each Wednesday. I’m known for my decadent cookies and other baked goods. Such goodies are of vital importance in my new release, Call of Fire. How they are important? You’ll need to read the book to find out… and if you want to nibble on some cookies as you read, drop by my site for some recipes!
So I realized that I haven’t posted yet this year. Things have been a bit hectic and I have struggled a bit with thinking of what I wanted to talk about.
Well for me, January ended up being a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand my wife Andrea won a scholarship to the Amazing SDSU Writer’s Conference. A great opportunity for her to learn about the writing craft and an excuse for me to get away for a weekend vacation. She had a great conference and I got time away from the distractions of home and got a good bit of reading and relaxation in.
Sadly while we were enjoying our weekend in San Diego we were also losing a friend. Local author, friend, and first author guest blogger Alan Black died on January 21, 2017. Though I had only known him a few years, he was a fun and funny guy to be around. He was also one of my best and most encouraging authors to work with at local events. He appreciated that I took care of the money and taxes and let him concentrate on talking to his fans. As he said, he “Never met a good story I didn’t want to tell.” His lovely and equally wonderful wife and editor Duann Black has promised to take over and offer Alan’s books at events. Far more eloquent people than I have said wonderful things about Alan and I agree with them all. He shall be greatly missed.
This was not to be the only personal loss I would suffer in January either. A long time and very dear friend went in for heart surgery and devastatingly never recovered. After several days of not responding well, her family had to make the decision to let her go. A friend who very much lived up to the friends are family for me, she too will be very greatly missed.
And finally after research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I can raise the capital I need to acquire more inventory and make this website and blog into everything I’d like it to be is through crowdfunding. To this end I recently started a gofundme https://www.gofundme.com/duncans-books-and-more-expansion. If you would like to assist in my endeavor, know that anything is greatly appreciated. Please share it to your social media sites and anyone you think might be interested in helping a little bookstore to become a bit less tiny.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and I’ll see you among the stacks.
When I was five, I watched Star Wars for the first time, holding my older brother’s hand as we waited in line at the old Cine Capri. If you asked me who my favorite was, I would have told you Han Solo, the incorrigible rogue or his loyal sidekick Chewbacca. But when I heard the news that Carrie Fisher had passed away, a wave of devastating, profound loss swept over me and realized a truth.
No matter who my favorite was or is among the Star Wars family, Princess Leia had the most impact on me. When I was younger, I dressed up as her for Halloween. And as I grew older, knowing that there was a female role model out there made a difference for me, helped me realize that not only boys got to have the adventures. So did strong, heroic women.
As a character, she was ferocious. She talked back to the men who tried to control her. She fought as well as any of them, gun in hand and she was truly grace under pressure, getting the job done when others around her fell. She also displayed a subtle vulnerability which showed us it was okay to have a warmer side and care about the people in your life.
Carrie Fisher was a hero herself. She struggled with Bi-polar disorder and was far from perfect. But she was an advocate for women’s rights. She was an advocate for mental health. And she was never afraid to speak out for others. She was funny, fierce and brave even when she was afraid.
I know there are others who can speak about her more than I can. But I know what she meant to me and countless other girls of my generation and after. She made us brave like her. She made us fierce like her. She was our princess who showed us it was okay to be the hero of our own stories and to always speak out. There will never be another like her. I mourn her, both as my Princess Leia and as herself, the warm, funny comedienne and writer. We will must now find our own hero within, become the Princesses of our own stories. Go with the Force, Carrie Fisher.
I found out tonight that we also lost Debbie Reynolds who was also a hero to me. Unshakeable Molly Brown is no more and my heart hurts for our losses. Women, we must take their examples and learn from them. Be the women they were. They can never be replaced but we can honor their memories.
If you’ve read my past blog posts, you know I’m a fan and friend of the Alien Series by Gini Koch. Fast, fun and funny reads with a very engaging story line. Book 14 Alien Nation is set for release on December 6, 2016. If you’re a fan of the series and not lucky enough to be able to catch Gini Koch at any of her signings but would love to have a signed paperback copy, I’ve got your hook up. I am taking preorders for signed copies of book 14 or orders for any of the previous 13 books. Best of all, you don’t have to pay a mark up to get a signed and personalized copy just for you. Cover price plus shipping is all you pay. Want to order more than one book? I am happy to discuss quantity pricing for multiple books. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss the details.
Next, I wanted to say welcome to everyone that follows this modest little blog. I hope you are enjoying these posts. I’m not naturally the most outgoing person, but I’ve found in recent years that I love talking books and entertainment with people. That said, blog format is still a bit of struggle for me. I really want to start a discussion here, but that requires more than just me typing out into the internet. I’ve opened up the comments, but will still intend to keep a watch out for spam and off topic responses. I want a civil friendly discussion. I welcome constructive feedback. Share your opinions about the topic at hand, but please remain respectful of everyone. Author, artist, game designer or other creative entertainment type? Have something related you’d like to share? Contact me and we can talk about guest posts. I’d love to bring more content of interest and help get the word out about what you do. Seriously, I’m just one guy here and trying to think interesting things to say and get them written has proven a bit daunting for me. Enjoying these posts, please let me know.
Lastly, I want to ask what else you’d like to see on this website. I’m currently planning to put a store front up where I could offer the books that I’m simply can’t offer on sites that take a commission at the prices the megasellers offer. Books and such that can be found for $0.01 plus shipping. I could offer them here for $4-$5 with shipping and only have to pay a CC processor a much lower rate. Of course I already offer direct pricing for anything I have available with just an email of this is what I’m looking for, but I was thinking of seeing if I can make this little site a way to grow the business. I also envision an events page and maybe a way to help my amazing local authors more. I want to provide interesting and worthwhile content for those who take their time to visit.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Until next time.
See you among the stacks,
“Luke Cage” is complex, gritty, and riveting. It begins after the events in Jessica Jones. Luke (Mike Colter) is working two jobs in Harlem, one in a barbershop run by a former criminal Pop (Frankie Faison) who has spent his life since prison making his shop a safe haven in the neighborhood. The other job is as a dishwasher in an upscale Harlem club run by Cornell Stokes (Mahershala Ali) Aka Cottonmouth. Stokes is running guns in the city and we soon learn that a theft of his money leaves him in a difficult position.
There is crime and politics with references to Fisk and other events in the city. The villains are complex with varying reasons for their actions. One, Stokes’ cousin, Mariah Stokes (Alfre Woodard) wants to make a difference in Harlem and build it up to be a better place but she uses her cousin’s money to do so. Cornell firmly believes money is the only thing useful in the world. Excuse the phrasing but none of the characters are black and white. They all believe in what they are doing and trying to live in a society where poverty and crime walk hand in hand with hardworking, caring people
Even the music aids the storyline, each episode beginning with music tied right to the heart and soul of Harlem, its history and its people. The show is clearly filmed in Harlem, with stores and places familiar to those living in the area. Music and people are the presence that ties this show together and the city is a living heart accompanying the story of Luke Cage.
Luke wants to lie low but with his friends in trouble, with people he cares about on the line or dead because of the political machinations of Cottonmouth and Mariah, Luke has no choice but to stand, to stand up and stand his ground, to stand for the people of Harlem and not allow its people to be dragged down, to help them live their lives in decency and to keep alive what Harlem really means, the people.
Each of the characters, good or bad is strong and vital, their motivations clear and their personalities real. Luke is just a man who wants to be left alone but keeps finding himself in the middle, keeps helping people because he’s a good person. Misty is a strong female cop in a mostly male force and holds her own against corruption and dishonesty, upholding the truth. She might want to look away but she forces herself to face the ugly truths and help the people of her city. Even the villains are strong, Mariah, unflinching in the face of Diamondback killing three people. She stands her own ground and she survives even if we as the viewer dislike her thirst for power and her machinations, the scenes we have of her as a young, powerless girl give us the insight to understand her motivations.
Luke Cage manages to combine contemporary social commentary with the issues that black people face today in Harlem and communities around the country. The line, “Why is he running?” with the answer, “He’s a black man being accused of a crime he didn’t commit.” That statement speaks a lot to the issues in the country and the slogan Black Lives Matter was brought up during the show. One of the interesting points it seemed to play on was that everyone in Harlem deserved justice, the cops whose fellow officer was killed and Luke Cage when everyone is ready to shoot him on sight. There are those who speak out for him and it is as though they speak out for every person of color who was ever accused of a crime they didn’t commit. And at the end, even though Luke is cleared of any wrongdoing in Harlem, he goes back to face up to the crimes he’d originally been accused of in Georgia, ready to fight for justice for himself so that he can continue to fight for others.
One of the parts I like the best about Luke Cage is how much the history of Harlem is woven into the story, everything good and the bad, the historical figures who fought for their people to be free, the music of Harlem, the art and the people, not just African-Americans but all the ethnicities that live in the area, Puerto Rican, Korean, everyone was included. There was a richness of diversity that is found in so few network shows that this was a delight.
Between the complexity of the characters, the nod to the comic books, and the richness of diversity and culture, I enjoyed this show immensely and think it is one of the best Netflix Marvel series yet. If you haven’t watched any of the others, you don’t need to do so to enjoy Luke Cage and I think you should definitely check it out.
When “Stranger Things” first premiered on Netflix, I really had no idea what it was about. It looked like science fiction with the bonus of an intriguing mystery involving the disappearance of a boy. My husband and I decided to sit down and watch it. If I’d realized it was also a horror series, I probably wouldn’t have watched it and I would have missed out on one of the best shows to be aired in recent years.
“Stranger Things” is set in the eighties. It begins with a group of boys getting together to battle monsters and defeat evil, at least in a tabletop gaming system reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons @TM. And that scene had me hooked. The characters were engaging and the mystery, what happened to Jonathon Byers (Charlie Heaton) kept me glued to my seat, even while I held my hands in front of my face to protect myself from the scary scenes.
The show quickly ramped up the intrigue and the spookiness by bringing in a young girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who has escaped from a government think tank facility just outside of town. Eleven is not your normal child and she is being chased by men in suits whose goals in regards to her remain nebulous and threatening. And the people who try to help her, don’t fare very well. Eleven falls in with Jonathan’s friends, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) as they soon learn that Eleven can do things they only imagined and she assists them as they search for their friend.
At home his mother (Winona Ryder) attempts to communicate with him. And his brother, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) bands together with Mike’s sister, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) to discover the secret of why others are disappearing. The sheriff, Jim Hopper (David Harbour)does the same, poking around the government facility as well as digging into the past to find answers. The show is about finding answers, both to who Eleven is and to what has happened to Jonathan. And the answers are terrifying and brilliant all at once.
This show manages to bring together the feel of an eighties movie with some thought provoking physics concepts all while keeping you glued to the screen. The characters are engaging and the actors do an astounding job with their roles. I couldn’t stop watching it even when I was terrified and it even managed to creep out my husband who is way less susceptible than I am. All in all, this is a show that combines outcasts bonding like movies such as Stand by Me and ET with harder core science fiction/horror like The Thing and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And it does it effortlessly. I will be looking forward to the second season even while I try to sleep at night.
You can find Stranger Things on Netflix.
Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt had just finished a day on jury duty. When she stepped out of the Pueblo Caliente courthouse, all she was thinking about was the work she had to get caught up on. Then her attention was caught by a fight between a couple that looked like it was about to turn ugly. But ugly didn’t even begin to cover it when the “man” suddenly transformed into a huge, winged monster right out of a grade Z science fiction movie and went on a deadly killing spree. In hindsight, Kitty realized she probably should have panicked and run screaming the way everyone around her was doing. Instead she sprinted into action to take down the alien.
In the middle of all the screeching and the ensuing chaos, a hunk in an Armani suit suddenly appeared beside her, introduced himself as Jeff Martini with “the agency,” and then insisted on leading her to a nearby limo to talk to his “boss.” And that was how Kitty’s new life among the aliens began…Touched by an Alien is the thrilling first installment of the Alien novels.
I love Kitty. Really, who wouldn’t? She runs into danger, protects the people she cares about and even people she barely knows, and is kick-ass while she does it.
“Touched By An Alien” by Gini Koch is witty, fun, and fast paced. It is packed with action. It’s also packed with mystery and intrigue. Kitty begins with stepping up to save innocent people from a monster but that’s not the end of things, that’s just the beginning.
She learns that aliens are real and helping protect the world from monsters, parasites that turn any mammal into a rage filled monster trying to kill people. On top of that, the biggest bad is paired with the man running the ultimate terrorist group, a parasite that isn’t just a monster but who has plans for destroying the world. And Kitty needs to figure out how to stop him.
Why Kitty? Because he wants her and wants to destroy the people she loves. This is the real secret to the excitement of this book. Gini Koch combines mystery and intrigue into an action thriller that is impossible to put down filled with humor and characters that you love.
I willingly admit to crying in this book because not everyone makes it. And that is the beauty of the book. It makes you fall in love with everyone Kitty loves and she cares about the people around her and she wants to help them. The author blends humor and pathos with equal measure and makes you genuinely care about all the characters in the book.
It’s a breath of fresh air to have a character that is also a good person. She isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes. She falls in love fast and has a temper. But you love her anyway. She’s a good person protecting her family. And like every person like that, firemen, police, and soldiers, she isn’t willing to step down and let the people she cares about get hurt.
The same goes for this novel. It isn’t perfect. Sometimes Kitty is telling us what’s going on instead of us just seeing it for ourselves but it works, especially from a first person point of view. I also probably would have loved it almost as much without the sex scenes but I do find they help move the story along and are instrumental in bringing Kitty into her new world. Action and dialogue really move this story. It is fast paced and incredibly well paced. It would make a great action movie or television show.
I also like that in this book smart people are prized. Yes, the aliens are beautiful but their culture prizes intelligence over looks and doesn’t care about the color of a person’s skin or their sexuality. They have their problems, not the least of which is not being able to lie worth a darn and needing help figuring out what the Big Bad is up to. This is a world I wouldn’t mind living in.
And, yes, Kitty is kick ass. And that’s why I love her so much I can re-read the book over and over.
Editor Rating: Really loved it!
Series: Alien Novels (Book 1)
Publisher: DAW (April 6, 2010)
You can get the book here: Duncansbooksandmore
Another Thursday rolls around and I find myself even busier than I expected. I acquired lots of books to sort and list this week. Enough that I expect to be still working on them through next week. This of course push all thoughts of this week’s post out of my mind. Consequently I have decided to give you an off the cuff post about my little business and some thoughts for what I’d like to do with my website moving forward.
I started off selling used books on Amazon in late 2007. I had been working for another online used bookseller for about a year and had decided I wanted to supplement that income with my own store. I started with about 300 books purchased from a coworker of my wife’s. Over the years I’ve stretched my inventory to a few thousand books and expanded from Amazon to multiple online book sites and recently started up this little website and blog. I’ve also moved from selling exclusively used books to a small number of new books.
In 2014 at the request of the ever amazing Gini Koch I made the move into being an event bookseller. In this capacity I assist authors by providing required business and tax-licenses and cashier services, freeing them up to talk to fans about their books and concentrate on the pitch. I’ve gotten to work with some wonderful local authors and really enjoy this aspect of the business.
My next local event is fast approaching in November. I will once again be helping the wonderful authors of the Desert Rose RWA for the 11th annual Free Writer’s Workshops. If you’re in the Phoenix area Nov 5, come on out and check out this great free resource for aspiring writers at the Scottsdale Public Library. If you do be sure to stop my table in the author’s signing area and let me know you read my blog.
As to the future plans for the website, I’m hoping to add more content in the near future. My thoughts include a page for local events I will be selling at or other events I think might be of interest. I would also like to add a store where you can purchase books from me directly. If you have something you’d like to see, feel free to let me know.
That’s about it for this week. Thanks for reading.
Until next week, see you among the stacks.
I was thinking recently about some of the books I read growing up that I still feel the impact of today. I thought I’d share them with you.
Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth by Jerome Beatty Jr.
Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth tells the story of a boy living on the Moon who has always dreamed of space travel. Matthew is a typical Moon boy with a family, a pet, and a plan to fill a summer position at his father’s work. That is, until his world turns upside down when he learns of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to be the cabin boy on a space expedition to the uninhabitable planet Earth.
I remember this a fun little series of children’s books and certainly played into my early fascination with space.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.
This Newbery Medal-winning novel by bestselling author Katherine Paterson is a modern classic of friendship and loss. Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief. In addition to being a Newbery Medal winner, Bridge to Terabithia was also named an ALA Notable Children’s Book and has become a touchstone of children’s literature, as have many of Katherine Paterson’s other novels.
This one has stuck with me largely because of the beautiful way it deals with friendship and tragedy. The times when I had few friends my imagination became a place of refuge. I also thought the movie adaptation was quite well done and loved getting to see into the world of Terabithia.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.
A required reading book in school, the themes of this beautiful story have stuck with me. I loved the transformation of Phillip in the story and the growth. I had forgotten the name of it until I acquired a library-bound copy earlier this year.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A McKillip.
Sixteen when a baby is brought to her to raise, Sybel has grown up on Eld Mountain. Her only playmates are the creatures of a fantastic menagerie called there by wizardry. Sybel has cared nothing for humans, until the baby awakens emotions previously unknown to her. And when Coren–the man who brought this child–returns, Sybel’s world is again turned upside down.
One of my first YA books. I came across this book at a library that had a small section for YA books. I wonderful fantasy book that I still have fond memories of.
Feel free to share your thoughts or any books you read growing up that still effect you today.
Until next time, see you among the stacks.
So today as a guest, I’m taking over Duncan’s blog. I love books and I love talking about books and with the permission of Slice of Scifi, I am re-publishing my review of Kat Howard’s sublime work of fiction, “Roses and Rot.”
I raved about this on Slice of Scifi but I will say it again here, this is a lovely, dark fairy tale using familiar concepts and reworking them in new ways. If you get the chance to read it, if you like fairy tales, do and then put a review up on Amazon, because authors need reviews.
Here is the summary of the review:
I highly recommend this book. And right now, I would read another from this author, because she has done the impossible, she has made me love her work and want to add it to my pick up anytime list and like Neil Gaiman before her, she weaves fairy tales into the real world in a way I have seldom seen done as well. I think you will find her work very difficult to put down once you start reading. If you like dark fairy tales or stories of empowered women, this book is for you.