My work

Friday, 18 July 2014

#IAD International Authors’ Day Blog Hop – Featured Author: Martyn V. Halm


I was invited to join the inaugural IAD, the concept and creation of Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay of b00k r3vi3ws. On her blog, she posted:
"I was shocked to realize that there's isn't an International Authors' Day that we can all celebrate to show our appreciation for the hours of hard work that  authors put into their  books... So I decided to do something about it!"
[See more at: b00k r3vi3ws]

I immediately hopped on this bandwagon . . . then struggled over which author I’d pimp. So many whom I love. But since I was in the midst of reading the third Amsterdam Assassin Series novel, Rogue, I chose its creator and author, Martyn V. Halm. [You can check out his endlessly entertaining blog here.]

Mr. Halm has created one of the most interesting characters in fiction, the amazing Katla Sieltjes, the titular Amsterdam Assassin. By dint of a flaw in her character, Katla lacks a conscience, and so chose freelance assassin as her career. Hey, why not? Excitement and danger and a lot of killing ensues.
Now, if you want to know more of Katla, you can read my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Well, actually, reading the books is probably the smarter choice. But about her author . . . well, here we go:

Mr. Halm lives in Amsterdam with his wife and two kids – to whom he routinely dedicates his work – but don't get confused over this appearance of domesticity. His background means he has the chops for writing this high-action series. He’s a former motorcycle courier, so those chase scenes he writes have realistic punch. He trains in koryu bujutsu [an ancient martial art] and aikido [another martial art, developed in the early-twentieth century], so the hand-to-hand combat scenes are authentic and thrilling. He studies the ages-old game of Go, the intricate strategies of which are evident in the complex development of his plots. Most scenes are set in Amsterdam, and Mr. Halm’s knowledge of and love for his city comes through loud and clear.
The research that goes into writing Katla – and her blind lover Bram [Mr. Halm's depiction of the blind has been lauded by experts] – is evident, leaving me chewing my nails for the next one. I know it takes time and effort to write novels such as these. There are guns and games and gore galore in these works, and each rings true as a monument to verisimilitude in fiction.

There are three full-length novels [Reprobate, Peccadillo, and the above-mentioned Rogue], plus three short works [the Katla KillFiles - Microchip Murder, Fundamental Error, and Locked Room]. Suss them out on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and wherever else awesome books are sold. FYI, they are also on Scribd, and for the moment on Kobo, Reprobate and the KillFiles are all free! Enjoy.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Yar, me soul-matey! Revisiting my dislike of this romantic paradigm.

Yesterday was Canada Day, and I had a prearranged date with a bottle of wine and two women of fiction. The first was Kendra, a stranger to me, so you get to meet her, too.
Before I get to my review, I’d best address my post title. I have – with a degree of amused snark – used this line before. Never as any dig at an author employing the You are my density destiny [Ah, damn! Snarky. Again.] trope, but I have a real aversion for it.

Kendra by Edward M. Wolfe at Amazon
So when reading Kendra by Edward M. Wolfe – which embraces the concept – I began examining why I was so, not bitter about it, but definitely antagonistic. I’m a romance novelist, after all. All romantic tropes and paradigms should be natural and reasonable to me, to be used as appropriate.

Maybe it’s that I never met my soul mate, that I’m still single [roughly speaking], and my distaste is a form of envy that I never met – or worse, met and missed – my soul mate along the way.
Nah. Never met anyone like that . . .

And then I thought about him. That guy. That guy who, when he first spoke, riveted me to the spot. That guy who so enthralled me that when we went on our first date, I was so busy staring at him in lustful admiration that I ran smack into a tree. [Who plants trees on sidewalks? In a city? Really. It’s the place for wide avenues of beautiful, sweet concrete. Where smitten girls don’t make idiots of themselves.]
We bonded in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, and haven’t since. We were accurately finishing each other’s sentences within hours of meeting. There was a connect. A snap of awareness for each other that we discussed at length, our conversations peppered with words like destiny and yes, soul mates.

Did the relationship work out? Ah, no. Obviously. For a variety of reasons. We were too young and stupid and overly sensitive about . . . almost everything. Maybe I never forgave him for the fact that, had he been a true gentleman, he would have been walking on the outside of the sidewalk and I never would have embarrassed myself with that damn’ tree. Maybe he was secretly annoyed that my voice – that he admired in private moments – could suddenly drip with condescension when I felt threatened by, well, a lot of things in those days, not so long ago.
But for all it didn’t work out, for all that I’m done grieving the loss of that time, I still have a soft spot for him, and wonder what would have happened had we met just a handful of years later. Or yesterday.

Because yesterday I read Kendra, and for once, didn’t have any snark about the soul-mate paradigm.

Review – 5 stars for Kendra

I’ve read a smattering of Mr. Wolfe’s work. Even when not over the moon with it, I like it. He has an Everyman, natural style that is enormously accessible, in which I imagine I can hear his voice. And it is pleasant to the ear.

And now, Mr. Wolfe has produced this phenomenal work. Kendra is a bang-up romance, beautifully crafted and surprisingly unsentimental in its celebration of the soul-mate paradigm.

I’m uncertain what else to say about it, as just about everything constitutes a spoiler. But I’ll try.
Keith and Kendra meet by accident and instantly bond. Keith, whose voice in those early pages smacks of asshat-edness, sheds his veneer of cynicism when overwhelmed by the notion that he and Kendra are meant to be together. Happily, she feels the same way, and their relationship rockets along.

Tragedy strikes. The upshot is that Kendra winds up in a coma and on life support.
Now, the subtitle of this work is An Astral Lovestory, so I think it’s safe to reveal that Keith and Kendra’s temporal connexion transforms into a paranormal one. A meeting of souls – or spirits, or energy – who experience a resplendent communion on an astral plane, even though he is very much alive, and she, not so much.

Plot-wise, I can’t reveal more. I can reveal that I got misty reading this novel. I’m blaming the wine I was consuming along with it.

The narrative questions the ironic: that some who believe in God, spirits, and an afterlife can’t believe something outside their experience – the irony being that, for most of us on this side of death, there is no demonstrable experience with God, spirits, or an afterlife . . . so believers should be more open, more willing to examine the tenets of those beliefs. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio . . .

The novel also explores the meaning of life, issues of life-support and pulling plugs. The fine line between imagination and reality, and the even finer one between perceived sanity and insanity.

And love. The meaning of love. Kendra and Keith’s love is not gushy. Not corny or schmaltzy. It is as flawless as flawed humans can make it. Undefined, it reads as naturally and truly as breathing. It simply is. Meant to be.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Just realised: I’m not twenty anymore.

I’ve never read a lot of YA, and less and less as time goes by. It’s not because I think it beneath me. It’s merely that I never had an affinity to it. As I recently observed to a friend, I started reading Kafka while still reading The Baby-Sitters Club – so maybe I leapt over that genre gap that YA would have bridged.
I generally don’t like to review YA either, as part of me knows I punish the author through my lack of A: experience and B: affinity. Yet this lack lends a degree of objectivity to my review of such work – I’m not comparing this to that, and if I got through the book, then genre affinity doesn’t matter. I finished, so therefore, the book is notable [to me]. I have so much I want to read – and there are so many books from which to choose – that it’s easy to put aside a book that’s not working for me and move onto the next. Simple as that.

When I do read YA, I have to keep reminding myself what it was to be a teenager. It’s amusing now to think of how angsty those years were. How easily obsessed one could become with that boy. Or the meaning of a look. A word. Lack of words. How he glanced at you. How he didn’t.
Only to discover later that none of it meant anything.

Ah, so glad that’s gone. Mostly gone. The point is that teenagers do obsess. They do lack confidence in themselves. They haven’t the experience or courage to be forthright and address relationship problems head on. Speak truth to power? What power? The individual[s] with whom they are consumed are as powerless as they.
So they fret, and obsess, and are generally excessively annoying. Just like I did; just like I was.

I have to remind myself of that every time I pick up a YA. Normally – naturally – they are written from that angsty teen perspective. It’s maddening. Infuriating. But it’s real.