Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writer's Voice Blogfest

I am participating in The Writer's Voice 2015 Blogfest. You can check out the other entries here.


Seventeen-year-old Sophia de Paula was raised among the foreigners, who wed native women like her mother to recruit their family for the sugarcane fields. Her fair, noble cousin is convinced marriage to Sophia will guarantee the prosperity of his barony, but she’d rather drown like her brother than wed someone who keeps trying to take her by force.

When her native grandmother entreats her to awaken Ig, the Water Goddess, and save the rainforest tribes from the conquering Easterners, Sophia leaps at the chance to flee her arranged marriage. No one has seen Ig since the blond invaders arrived from across the sea, but, disappointingly, the Goddess Sophia awakens is more interested in Easterner fashion than the devastation of the rainforest and the tribes.

Apart from bestowing water-controlling powers on Sophia, Ig’s advice is to seek another deity, a powerful Goddess no one knew existed. Ig’s quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest the Easterners keep burning, and if she doesn’t succeed, marriage to her cousin will be the least of her worries. If she fails, Sophia’s tribe will perish at the hands of the conquerors who married into her family.

SHROUDED GODDESS is a 71,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the sixteenth century. This story will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

First page:

Silence settles over the great hall as four men bring forth a spitted manatee like pallbearers at a funeral. The five people seated for dinner occupy less space than the roasted beast. A charred leather stench arrives with the procession, and my stomach recoils as if it were a cornered rat scurrying against a wall.

Uncle Hector stands to inspect his catch then slices a sliver of pink meat from a gash in the thick skin. He chews ceremoniously while clear juices pool on the stone floor and neck muscles twitch on those supporting the beast’s weight. A nod of approval later, the roast is set on the table from which I wish I could flee.

Victor doesn’t ask if I want any meat before he serves me. "Quite the treat, isn’t it, Cousin?”

His childhood habit of stressing our familiarity is only less annoying than his determination to make me his wife. But the thought of wedding him does nothing to entice my appetite.

Grandmother Aryeea huffs from the head of the table opposite to my uncle. “Enough meat to feed two villages and it all got cooked at once. If I’d seen the animal, the cooks would have salted half. You said it was small.”

“There were larger ones in the river.” Uncle Hector, seated where Father should have been, serves his wife as if she were a princess from across the sea instead of a neighboring Baron’s daughter. Aunt Ana isn't allowed a knife either, even if she doesn't want to stab the man who cuts her meat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Middle grade books for elementary school kids

My sons are seven and nine, with overactive imaginations and slapstick humor like kids their age seem wired to have. As much as they enjoy living vicariously the rough days of a wimpy middle-schooler, they are more than ready to embark on wild, fantastical adventures, be it on the Hogwarts Express or through a portal to Narnia. Quick trips in a magic tree house still entertain my younger son, but the older one needs more volumes in a story--as long as there isn't much kissing. Even though he reads above grade level, he is as interested in relationships as James Bond.

Of the many books people have pitched my older son's way, Rick Riordan's novels always score. And not just due to my son sharing Percy Jackson's dyslexia. Be it Greek or Egyptian, Riordan's take on gods among earthlings mingles enough reality into his stories for suspension of disbelief, while keeping the peril fantastical enough not to give nightmares. That sense of safety in reality is essential for my son. The later Harry Potter books do not scare him, but the kidnapping during Halloween in the opening of the Five Kingdoms series did. He found it was a lot easier to empathize with kids that get into adventurous trouble because they are supernatural than because they did something stupid. Whether he was conscious that the kids' behavior in Sky Raiders was of the kind that fuels helicopter parenting, I'm not certain. But after reading three chapters aloud together, we had to set the book aside.

The fidgeting is the first sign of discomfort, which can develop into cartwheels or brash declarations of "I'm too tired" from a kid who has choosen not to go to sleep voluntarily since he was old enough to open his eyes. My counter-tactics alternate between stopping to discuss the issue, sending him to bed, and plowing on through Harry's jitters whenever he tried to talk to Cho. Even after watching the movie, my son was not prepared for the crush-related angst of the Order of the Phoenix. On the other hand, Harry kissing Ginny in the Half-Blood Prince was, as for the boy at the end of The Princess Bride, not a problem.

Maybe my kids will feel the universe shift when they meet a new classmate in forth grade, or watch their crush kiss their frenemy from a rooftop balcony when they are thirteen. For now, I am happy that they still want to read aloud with me, even if what we end up discussing is toilet papyrus and Egyptians walking sideways. Rick Riordan, thank you for the connection.