Reading: Subversive by Colleen Cowley

Title: Subversive
Author: Colleen Cowley

Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy
Format: Print

Recommended: Yes

First book in the Clandestine Magic trilogy, this book follows Beatrix as she supports her sister Lydia, financially and emotionally, as she attempts to win the presidency of the Women’s League for the Prohibition of Magic. All magic users (wizards) and politicians are men in this alternate history, and the way wizards create spells is by transferring the energy from leaves with a combination of magical commands.

We join Beatrix the day Peter Blackwell, childhood rival and sole wizard to come from their hometown, arrives and compels her to become his assistant. While Beatrix fears Peter was sent on behalf of the government to sabotage her sister’s future, what she discovers is far more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

I really enjoyed this story! It has an inventive magic system that lays the groundwork for political intrigue and women’s equality in this alternate reality. There were some troubling use of compulsion against the heroine, but since the characters also struggled with the unintended compulsion, I didn’t see it as a reason to put the book down. The romance was a struggle for me due to the compulsion… but I enjoyed the way Cowley flipped the script by having the unrequited person be male rather than female.

For writers, read this book to learn about how to write a fantasy where magic is not the primary plot driver. This book reads like a political thriller where magic is the weapon rather than machinery. The main characters feel emotionally real by the end of the story, but the true driver the consequences of transferring leaf energy into magic, and just who has access to that sort of magic.

I also really appreciated the Cowley included a note to readers to visit her website if they wanted to avoid any triggering content. She doesn’t give away spoilers, but she does let you know about the compulsion I noted above, and other possibly traumatic events. I wish the cover art was a little more impressive, though… I feel like it distracts from the fine writing hidden between the covers.

You Should Watch “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching Pressing On: The Letterpress Film. This was the result of a Kickstarter campaign and it is a lovely work! I’m a big DIYer and Maker in general, so this film was right up my alley regarding doing something slow and methodical with your hands to get a sense of accomplishment… while also collecting and sharing the history of letterpress.

It’s truly a lovely film and worth your time if you can get access to it. I seriously want a mini letterpress now in my home because of this film. I love paper, and have too many paper journals already.

Anyway, go see this film! I know I’ll be waiting for the DVD distribution!

Also, a lovely review for The Last April was written this past weekend by Emma Lucas, a book blogger and Instagrammer. I’ve included some snippets for fun:

….It was educational, intriguing, and explained history to me through the eyes of Gretchen. The thoughts and feelings of both sides are exquisitely communicated through the use of dialogue and of newspaper articles, the issues surrounding ‘fake news’ (as often seen today!) were still prevalent all those years ago, with newspaper bias and genuine reporting mistakes, which led to wide struck panic and confusion and something that we can all understand.

….Overall, I would highly recommend this book, both to adults and young adults a like, for those with an interest in war fiction, of historical fiction or as an educational tool to learn. I would strongly suggest the book to any teachers who may be looking to educate students in an engaging way through story telling. Kroll’s writing is crisp and very easy to understand, and when I begrudgingly had to put the book down, it was very easy to pick it back up again.

Adults may find that the story is lacking in terms of gore, details on deaths etc, however as this is set for a younger audience this is more than understandable and did not in anyway impede my enjoyment of the book.

However, although the story is set in the past, unfortunately uncertain political times are a general constant somewhere in the world. The novella raises themes of hope, fear, and looking toward the future during these times, so will always have relevance.

I love following Emma’s book reviews because she always chooses a tea to correlate with her reading.

She suggests you read The Last April with Taylor’s of Harrogate Sour Cherry tea, because it’s “punchy as Gretchen’s attitude with a slight bitterness of Aunt Klegg, with the sweetness of Karl. Perfect accompaniment to this read!”

Am I a Racist Author?

Dear Reader,

I got a nasty surprise yesterday when, idly browsing my sales, I decided to see if any new reviews had been submitted for my books on Barnes and Noble. Lo and behold, I got a one star rating for Catching the Rose and the title of the comment was “Racist?”

Believe me, when you see that word, in bold, associated with your book, especially when that was not the intent of it, you are fully aware of how silly you sound when you say “…whoa” while blinking at your computer screen.

The comment went on to say,

I’m sure “SLAVES” had a name so pray tell why didn’t this writer choose to use one. I couldn’t believe how many times the word was used. It really ruined the storyline.

Rather than taking this comment personally, I’m now trying to see it from the reader’s perspective. Yes, I do use the word “slave” multiple times in the first chapters of the book as a stylistic choice. I don’t name any of the main characters until they begin to meet one another:

  • Amy Williams is the “young woman in the blue bonnet.”
  • Veronica Vernon is the “blonde southern belle” with Nan, her quietly disapproving slave.
  • Mrs. Beaumont is the “woman sleeping upstairs” while her “housekeeper slave” Maum Sukie throws open the parlor drapes to the morning sun.

I’ve gotten comments on both sides about whether this nameless introduction was a good decision. The book, especially by today’s reading standards, begins very slowly, and I’ve been accused of being long-winded in my description. Obviously, the opening offended one reader, for which I am sorry. Surely that wasn’t my intent. However, I feel as though the reader should realize that Catching the Rose is set in the Confederacy during the opening months of the Civil War.  Slaves were slaves. They didn’t have names. Not ones their masters would bother remembering should the slave, for whatever reason, no longer be there. At least, the masters I was writing about acted that way.

Hell, in one account I found during my research, there was a woman who named all the female slaves one name and all the male slaves another just to make it easy to remember. I know people who treat their dogs like that. The family dog Bingo dies, they buy another dog of the exact same breed, and name it Bingo. Not Bingo the Second, because that acknowledges that there was a precursor Bingo. No, just Bingo. As if Bingo had never left.

I know I will never have a chance to discuss this issue with the reader I offended. I doubt they will ever read another of my books, which is a shame, and the risk one takes when deciding to become an author. But I do want to make it clear that I’m not a racist. If anything, I wanted to be true to the era.

I would like to mention that I am, according to the US Census, a black woman. Well, I’m mixed race, but if you were to see me walking down the street, your gut reaction, if you were thinking about the race of a woman walking past you, would be, “Now that’s one nerdy black woman. But man, has she got a quirky style.”

Ok, maybe not the nerdy part, or the quirky part. Though I will say my plastic-framed glasses are pretty awesome. But the point is, I am a woman of mixed race who is acutely aware of the way in which strangers perceive me. It isn’t a big deal, it’s happened my entire life whether I pay attention to it or not.

I understand that one could argue that simply because I’m this mixed race doesn’t mean that by default, I am not racist against one half of me. I could very well be a black woman racist against black people. It happens.

But if that is all you got out of Catching the Rose, then I’m guessing you didn’t read past the first two chapters. That’s ok, that’s your prerogative.

Just so you know, Nan, Veronica’s slave, plays an important supportive role when Veronica feels like she has been cut off from the world. One which enables Veronica to take an important, decisive action.

The fact is, I am disappointed that one reader felt so strongly that they wrote this comment in a public arena. I have had readers compliment this book for close to ten years; the re-release last year has been slow, but steady. How disheartening, to have someone accuse me of racism, when the point of the book is how important it is to fight for freedom of choice, whether it is in love, occupation, or simply living.

There is nothing I can do to prove I’m not racist. By saying I’m not, I come off as defensive, and if I don’t say anything, it’s seems as though I’m guilty by staying silent. So I come here to my blog to have a public record of my concerns on the matter, for better or worse.

All the best,


– – –

This is part of the ROW80 blog hop. I’m keeping my goals (750 words per week), are you? I’ve sucked at being a sponsor, though. Haven’t been leaving comments like I should. Will try to do better!

Dreaming of Books Giveaway

Dear Reader,

I’ve been selected as January’s “Author of the Month” over at A Buckeye Girl Reads. Make sure to check out the interview and leave some love. 🙂 I like that idea, highlighting local authors (I’m on Ohio). Maybe I’ll do something similar, but with indie authors…

Now then. It’s a new month, which means we have a new giveaway! All you have to do is agree to sign up for my newsletter and agree to write a review for my upcoming book of short stories, Love or Lack Thereof. At the end of the giveaway, you will receive a 100%-off discount code to “buy” Love or Lack Thereof.

I am trying to get more reviews on Barnes and and is always appreciated. I’ll send you the information through the newsletter when we get closer to the release date, which looks like it will be March.

Pretty simple, right? Happy new year!


Releasing the Ghost

Dear Reader,

Haunting Miss Trentwood is now available for pre-print publication reviews!

What does that mean? It means the digital version is available on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Huzzah!

If you would like to receive a free copy for an honest review of either Haunting Miss Trentwood or my first book Catching the Rose there are a couple of ways to contact me…

  1. The Goodreads invitation
  2. Through Facebook
  3. Comment on this blog post with your email

All I ask is that you agree to provide a review on,,, and/or Barnes and to receive your free copy. When you contact me I will send a coupon for a free purchase from Smashwords.

My goal is to get at least three reviews on each website by Halloween. Don’t have time, or is your to-be-read list too long as it is? Tell your friends and family about this offer.

Haunting Miss Trentwood Tea Tasting!

My sister and Ava Misseldine
My sister and Ava Misseldine

Haunting Miss Trentwood is set in England, which means, of course, we ought to drink tea to celebrate the launch of the book. Are you, your friends, or family in the Columbus, Ohio area? If so, go to the main branch of the metropolitan library on October 27, 2010 at 6:30 PM.

I have been working with local tea salon owner Ava Misseldine to select teas which represent the main characters of Haunting Miss Trentwood. We will be talking about the book, my experience as an independent publisher, and more.

Print copies of Catching the Rose (and hopefully Haunting Miss Trentwood… postal service, don’t let me down!) will be available for purchase.

I hope to see you there!



Dangerous Liasons in Social Networking

“Hush, hush. Keep it down now, voices carry!”
Voices Carry sung by Aimee Mann

This is an interesting time for those of us trying to market our work. We have the internet, and all the “free” networking that comes with it. But I would like to extend a word of caution to my fellow authors. As fun as social networks can be, they are a dangerous outlet of frustration and hurt feelings if not taken seriously.

Writer Beware wrote a similar article yesterday about authors who fail to think before hitting the submit button, which is setting a precedence. A precedence that makes us authors look like we’re a bit insane, overly sensitive, and a bit whiny, if you ask me.

So what is there to do about this phenomenon? There are a couple of things we can do to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap of having our friends spam a blog that gave us a negative review, or using Twitter as our campaign to cold-call a journalist.

If you’re upset, write out your feelings, sure. You’re an author. It’s what you do.

But don’t post your upset email, blog comment, tweet, etc, until the next day. This will give you time to calm down to make sure you actually want to put yourself out there as potentially crazy.

Have someone else read the review.

Make sure you’re not flying off the handle by having an objective friend read the review and tell you what they think of it. Maybe it isn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe it’s worse than you thought. But you have to understand that this is the price you pay for having your work published. Do you know how many people would kill just to have their name on the spine of a book? You’re lucky someone read you and cared enough to review it!

Do not, under any circumstances, post the phone number and/or address of the reviewer so your loyal friends/family/fans can harass them.

Bad author. Bad.

Realize that reviews are subjective.

It’s all about personal taste, and as an author you knew, hopefully, when writing your book that not everyone would like it. You’re allowed to be upset about it, but try to be graceful, too.

Treat it as a learning experience.

If you’re that concerned about the review, send the reviewer a letter asking what would have improved the work for them. If they give valid suggestions, then great. If not, then leave them behind.

As someone who has been hurt by an errant tweet, I can tell you that it is very difficult to do these things when you’re upset. It’s difficult to resist the urge to rush to the defense. It hurts when people submit hurtful comments online without thinking. It hurts more when they’re obviously submitting hurtful things on purpose. My advice? The best thing to do is to walk away. Do not stoop to “their level,” whatever that level may be, as it makes you look petty.

How many of you have had a bad review, and what did you do? Have you ever seen an online author melt-down?