Guest Post–Amie Borst

Cinderskella Cover
Cindy is just a normal, average girl. At least until she wakes up one night to find out she is dead. Well, she isn’t technically dead—she just doesn’t have any hair, nose, or . . . skin. Yep, she is a skeleton—all bones and no body.

Human by day and skeleton by night, Cindy is definitely cursed. It doesn’t help that her mother recently died, only to be replaced by an evil stepmother who makes her do gross things like eat liver and clean rooms with only a toothbrush. It really doesn’t help that her father is scared of her strange nightly body appearance and that there’s no way she can attend the school dance “dressed” like a skeleton.

What ensues is a hysterical tale of a young girl who, while coping with the loss of her mother, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, love, and forgiveness, all the while learning to deal with an evil step-mother and her “skeletal” abnormalities.

Cinderskella is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble.

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Amie and Bethanie Borst are a mother-daughter writing team. Amie believes in Unicorns, uses glitter whenever the opportunity arises, accessories in pink and eats too much chocolate.  Bethanie is a spunky 13 year old middle-schooler who loves archery, long bike rides and studying edible plant-life. Cinderskella is their first book together and is part of the Scarily Ever Laughter series. You can find them on FacebookTwitter,  Pinterest,  From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, and blog.

GIVEAWAY –

Amie Borst is celebrating her book release and cover reveal with a monthly giveaway in The Great Cinderskella Giveaway! If you’d like to win a $25 Amazon gift card, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. You’ll be automatically entered into the grand prize drawing for a Kindle Fire in October!

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Author Corner–Kurt Reichenbaugh

E: Hi, Kurt.  Welcome back to Erindipity.  How does it feel to be an interviewee instead of a commenter?  Wait.  You don’t have to answer that.  Pie?

K: Why, thank you, Erin. I love pie! Blueberry…my favorite for this week! As for being the interviewee? Well, for as many times as I’ve had to pound the pavement looking for a daytime job, it’s something you get used to.  But this is the first time I’ve been coerced with pie.

E: Your book Sirens came out earlier this year from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  What can you tell us about it?

K: I think I took to heart the classic advice to writers. That is to write the kind of book you want to read. So, I took an idea I used for a short story, and rolled with it. It’s a book about four friends in the 1970s who, through a combination of boredom and bad instincts, get mixed up with an assortment of psychos, both of this Earth, and otherwise. I took common garden variety ingredients of lust and obsession, and threw the stew into it and Sirens was the result.

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E: How did you come up with the idea for it?  Who were your influences?

K: It’s the result of a youth spent reading noir paperbacks, books about UFOs, watching cheesy midnight movies and pining after girls who ignored me. You know, the kind of teenage life we all lived, right? Please tell me I’m right…Anyway, I had a number of influences. They range from Ray Bradbury to Blue Oyster Cult. A reader from Germany recently asked if I was influenced at all by David Lynch movies. I hadn’t thought about it, but I was thrilled that he saw those elements in the book. So there are probably more influences than I’m aware of, or could succinctly list.

E: In addition to the book, you’ve had work appear in Dark Eclipse.  What was featured?

K: I write a monthly column for Dark Eclipse that mainly features reviews of older books and stories that one would find haunting used bookstores. I admire today’s horror writers like Bentley Little and Tamara Thorne, to name two that immediately come to mind, but I like to write about the old stuff. Prior to that I’ve had a noir story in Phoenix Noir from Akashic Books. More recently a story in the Zombies Need Love, Too anthology from Dark Moon Books. And various dark and twisted stories in small press publications.

E: What are you currently working on?

K: I’ve recently completed a noir novel called Past Due that is prepped for shopping around. It’s based in contemporary Phoenix, with nary a zombie, vampire or extra-terrestrial alien in sight. It’s about a nine-to-six working stiff who, once again, lets bad instincts get him into trouble.  Also, I’ll be in a collection of graphic illustrated stories drawn by artist Vince Larue from authors based in the Southwest.  It’s planned for a 2014 publication.

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, blog tours, giveaways, etc.?

K: No, I’m pretty much a home-body. I work full-time as a financial analyst so it doesn’t give me much time to get out there and tour. When not at work, or not festering on the sofa, I can be found sporadically posting to my blog The Ringer Files.

E: Is there any kind of writing that scares you (romance, MG, non-fiction, etc)?  I’d love to write a fantasy series, but it intimidates the crap out of me so I haven’t done it yet.

K: Yes. I don’t think I could reasonably pull off a Western or Science Fiction novel. I admire the folks that can do that.

E: If you could get advice from any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?

K: Hmm…that’s a tough one! I think I’d rather eat more pie. Writers are a curmudgeonly lot, in addition to being just downright weird sometimes. Ironically, it’s the advice from folks who don’t write that I have to deal with most often. Maybe we all can relate to that.

You can find Kurt writing up articles for Dark Eclipse or loitering on Twitter.

Guest Post–Lehua Parker

Author Lehua Parker stopped by today to talk about her Middle Grade/Young Adult series, The Niuhi Shark Saga.  You can find her previous interview on the blog here.

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When Pidgin Doesn’t Fly

It should’ve been obvious that when I intentionally wrote a series set in Hawaii with  dialogue in colloquial Hawaiian Pidgin English for MG/YA boys who don’t like to read, it was going to be a tough sell. Not only does my target audience not know I exist, they aren’t even looking.

It’s enough to make publishers and publicists resort to chucking bottles of gin and cases of cigarettes into volcanos as bribes to temperamental fire goddesses to help a sister out.

Sometimes it’s hard to get noticed.

The Niuhi Shark Saga was acquired by Jolly Fish Press (JFP) as a five book arc with the understanding that a new title would emerge from the womb ready to publish every nine months to a year. JFP is a brand-spanking-new traditional publisher ready to play midwife to the next blockbuster. Book 1, One Boy, No Water, was published in September 2012, the last of the three titles in JFP’s debut year. 2014, year three, will see eighteen.

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Like most beginnings, it’s been a journey filled with growing pains. Based in Utah, JFP did get a few books stocked at local Barnes & Noble bookstores, hosted a few book signings, set-up a blog tour, created a book trailer, submitted One Boy, No Water for an American Book Award, and technically, the Niuhi Shark Saga is available world-wide. But inherently magical promises of catalog distribution aside, my core target audience is still in the middle of the Pacific ocean several thousands of miles away.

It all looked easier on paper.

On my own the best I could do was send a few copies to Hawaiian school libraries and folks back home that I thought might like it enough to recommend it to friends. Overworked, underappreciated,  and focused on their next titles, JFP’s attention was elsewhere. To be fair, this kind of debut author/publisher experience isn’t unusual regardless of whether you’re with a new small press or NY Big 6. Go forth and harness the power of social marketing, I was told.

Like a good soldier, I spent almost two years social media marketing like mad, building relationships with readers with smart phones and Facebook accounts, blogging about Hawaiian culture, books, and how I often felt like a fish out of water living so far from my island home. I met a lot of amazing people and had a few opportunities come my way, but it was soon painfully obvious that while having a social media platform is an essential connection with fans, if you’re unknown it’s not the mechanism for creating an MG/YA fanbase. Any school interest I raised left educators scratching their heads because outside of Hawaii, Pidgin has no place to roost.

When I heard from other ex-pat Hawaiians that their kids asked parents and grandparents to read the Pidgin parts to them, that kids stumbled over common Pidgin words and phrases, and worse, that some gave up, I knew I had to make a change. Adults who didn’t speak Pidgin had no problem; they easily got into Pidgin’s rhythms and figured out meaning from context. The kids who were stronger readers stuck with it, liking the characters and plot, eagerly begging me for the next in the series.

It wasn’t the story. It was the language.

When I wrote book 2, One Shark, No Swim, I cut most of the Pidgin. There’re a few words and phrases sprinkled throughout the dialogue, but nothing like what was in One Boy, No Water. JFP is publishing One Shark, No Swim on September 21, 2013. Early reviewers like it; almost no one misses the Pidgin.

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I do, a little. After all, it was the I-hate-reading kid who seldom saw his authentic island lifestyle or characters like himself in the media that I was reaching out to with the series. But while I dream for a living, I’m pretty practical at my core.

While I was beating the bushes trying to figure out how to market the Niuhi Shark Saga on a shoestring, JFP was busily working like beavers in a log jam to even out the kinks in their distribution channels. They recently inked a deal with IPG, leading to new and improved marketing plans that include re-launching their backlist starting in January 2014.

You gotta love the can-do attitude of start-ups. Never underestimate the transformative power of espresso and interns.

With new distribution in place, JFP is giving me another chance to get it right. One Boy, No Water is getting a second edition make-over with English that sparkles with propriety and nary a da kine or get plenny fish in sight.

After its Pidgin-ectomy, the Niuhi Shark Saga will still be a series set in authentic Hawaii with people who do more than tend bars and wear something other than Hollywood’s coconut bras and cellophane grass skirts. Perhaps unburdened by Pidgin the story of a boy who’s allergic to water and sharks that walk among men will finally soar high enough that reluctant readers surfing at Waimea Bay will notice. As any fisherman will tell you, it’s all about the bait.

***

Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. In addition to writing award-winning short fiction, poetry, and plays, she is the author of the Pacific literature MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga published by Jolly Fish Press. One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available now, book 3, One Fight, No Fist will be published in 2014.

So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

You can find Lehua on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or on the Niuhi Shark Saga website.

Enraptured–An Excerpt

So, I’m almost a full month into my grad school experience and I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that this whole thing is horribly overrated.  I’m hoping it gets better once I’m able to start my workshops, but until then, I’m stuck reading more 18th century Gothic romance than I ever wanted to read (which isn’t hard seeing as I don’t want to read any of it).  Not that it’s (all) bad, mind you.  It’s just not my thing.  If I have to study literature, and it appears that I do, I’d rather study post-colonial world literature.

It won’t come as a shock, then, to learn that I haven’t done much in the way of creative writing.  I do a lot of writing for the blog, and for my classes, but nothing much on Enraptured.  Here’s a small excerpt from the book.  Maybe if enough people yell at me to finish it, I’ll get excited about it again the way I was when I started.

***

The church was full and every light blazed through the windows as the town gathered for service that night.  Tiffany and David, her husband, sat in the front pew in places of honor next to Mrs. Harold.  There was an electric buzz through the crowd, even though everyone, save for Jeanne, was present and accounted for.  The prayer tree had been activated after Tiffany called the pastor earlier that afternoon and by church time everyone knew there would be an announcement made.  There was no music tonight, no opening prayer.  The crowd hushed as Pastor Harold walked onto the stage and took his place behind the podium.  He sat his Bible down unopened and looked out over the faces staring back at him.  For a long moment, he said nothing.  Here and there a person would fidget in the uncomfortable silence, but mostly people quietly stared back at him and waited for the important announcement they knew was coming.  Pastor Harold placed his hand on the Bible’s cover as if to open it.  It was an old book, older than most of the people in town.  His wife nagged him to purchase a new one, one that wasn’t binding-cracked with dog-eared coffee stains, but his Bible was his ally.  He wouldn’t abandon it just for showing signs of aging.  It loomed on the podium like a proud combat veteran, a lone survivor in an ancient war knowing another battle was inevitable.  Pastor Harold removed his glasses with his other hand, and raised his hand from the Bible, rubbing his eyes.  He replaced his glasses and then spoke.

“Brothers and sisters, it is with a heavy heart but also a resounding joy that I’ve called you all here tonight.  The joyful news is that little Jeanne Montgomery has been called to our Heavenly Father through Rapture.  We’ve all had a hand in taking care of Jeanne at one time or another, so it is a credit to us that she was pure and strong enough in her child-like faith to be honored this way.  But we should not be proud!  The joy of this news makes my heart break because she was the only one.  I see you all here tonight because you were not called.  Sin crept in and kept you from being righteous enough to be worthy of God’s call.  I’m here to talk to you tonight because I, too, am flawed.  I’m unworthy to be in the presence of God.  Yet, only God is perfect.  We can mourn our shortcomings but we cannot forget that we are here to do God’s will.  We are not worthy enough to sit at his feet, but we are all still his children and we still have work to do.”

When he finished speaking, he pocketed his glasses and walked off the stage to where his wife was sitting.  Silently, she gave him her hand and he pulled her to her feet.  They walked together to the front door of the church, signaling to the congregation that the service was over.

I Can Hear You

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted any of my own work on here.  The other day when I was getting ready for bed, because it’s always when I’m getting ready for bed, I got an idea.  I’m not entirely happy with the way it looks on the page, but it’s also meant to be spoken, so ideally no one would see the page anyway.  This piece is almost a composite of different conversations I’ve had over the past few months, things I’ve seen posted online, and things I’ve overheard as I’ve went about my way.  The opening quote is something that was actually said to me by a man.  Anyway, here is is.  Feedback is always appreciated.

 

I Can Hear You

I can hear you.

I see you standing there on the corner with your friends

and I can hear you.

You say, “I’m so sick of hearing about rape culture”

but I’m sick of living in one.

I’m sick of the first words out of your mouth being

“What were you wearing?” and

“Were you drinking?”

instead of

“How can I help you?” and

“Are you ok?”

I’m sick of it being ok to tell me not to get onto an elevator

if I’m alone late at night and a man is already on it but it becomes absurd

to tell a man that if he is on an elevator

in the middle of the night and a woman gets on alone

that he should keep his hands to himself because the burden

is on me to not get raped instead of on you to not rape.

And contrary to the belief of Republican politicians

a rape kit won’t “clean me out” and

my body doesn’t have a “way to shut that whole thing down”

because my vagina doesn’t come equipped

with sperm-fighting ninjas…but it could.

I’m not opposed.

I want to tell you these things.

I want to tell you what it’s like to be a woman in this world today

or even what it’s like to be me in this world today.

Maybe you’ll listen.

Maybe you’ll be willing to meet me

on that cognitive plane where we can discuss this imbalance of responsibility

and brainstorm together how to stop it

so that you can stop hearing about it

and I can stop living it.

Then again, maybe you won’t be willing

to meet me in that place and that rape culture

you’re so sick of hearing about tells me not to speak

because there are four of you and only one of me

and speaking is an invitation.

Even though it’s over 90 degrees with 80% humidity

all anyone will remember is that I was wearing

a pair of shorts and a tank top and that I was alone.

Maybe you will listen but

I’m going to remain silent and keep walking.

After I cross the street.

Author Corner–Craig Wallwork

Craig Wallwork stopped by to have a chat with me.  Charlie’s all a’titter.  I hate it when he gets like this.

Craig

E: Hi, Craig.  Welcome to Erindipity!  I hope you’re not allergic to corpses.  Charlie!  Stop licking the man!  I’m really sorry about that.  Charlie’s something of an Anglophile.  I can pay for your dry cleaning.

C: Hi Erin, thanks for having me. Is it normal for a corpse to pay that much attention to a crotch?

Get a cat, they told me.  But no, I had to take in a corpse.  /facepalm

E: You have a new chapbook coming out soon from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  What’s the title and what can you tell us about it?

C: It’s called, Gory Hole: A Horror Triple Bill by Craig Wallwork. I think that’s the full title. It all came about because I was hoping Max Booth, editor-in-chief over at PMMP, would have mercy and pity-publish something by me. I was envious of their back-catalogue, if truth be told. They have some great titles by authors like Eli Wilde, Anna DeVine, Jay Wilburn, and E.E. King, so I just wanted to be part of it all. I had to bedevil and stalk Max for months before he finally accepted my request. The result is three stories with a leaning toward bizzaro, and very tongue-in-cheek horror. Human Tenderloin is a about fine dining for Cannibals. Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters is about a group of friends who find themselves in the gay quarter of the city and everyone has turned into zombies. And Sicko is about a bachelor party that goes awry when mutant deer attack a quaint English hotel. I much prefer horror to be over the top and comical. Evil Dead, Braindead, Dog Soldiers, Severance, Return of Living Dead, these were great movies because they boiled the horror down and skimmed off the absurd. Gory Hole is what Sam Rami would write if he was an author. I think Charlie would love it.

This.  This is why I love horror people.  Sure, they’re usually a bit off, but they never judge you for having a pet corpse and now they write him bedtime stories.  I don’t care what they say about you, horror people, you’re OK in my book.

E: You write both novels and short fiction.  When you come up with a story idea, do you already know that it will be a long or short piece, or does that come later after some of the writing happens?

C: I always know what will be a novel and what will be a short story. But I can never estimate the word count because I’m terrible with numbers. It’s like I have dyscalculia or something. I’m always uncertain to when flash ventures into being a short story, and when a short story becomes a novella. I just write and see what happens. I think it’s important that a writer doesn’t really ration themselves, or get caught up with the word count. Unlike life, storytelling is not limited by science, physics or finance; the only limitation a writer has is their imagination. Just let the words pour out.

E: The Sound of Loneliness from Perfect Edge Books sounds like my worst nightmare as a writer.  What can you tell us about it?

C: I wrote it from a different place from where I am now. I guess what I mean by that is, if I sat down to write The Sound of Loneliness today, it would be completely different. At the time, I was reading a lot of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Dan Fante, Mark SaFranko and other Underbelly and Beat writers. I was caught up in the whimsy of suffering, the poor starving artist self-sacrificing everything in the hope to create a masterpiece. I loved, too, how those writers viewed the world, how brutally honest they were. They never held back, and when they threw their fist you felt it in your gut. Naturally, I wanted to write something similar, but I didn’t want it to just be a facsimile of those works. Then I stumbled on Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and it all made sense. Hamsun showed me a different way to write, more lyrically and less brutal. Poetic, you may say. It was important for me to capture the feel of those types of books, but also present humor in a tragic way, while still being true to the main character and the world he inhabited. You could say that The Sound of Loneliness grew out of envy and bitterness, and I sense that’s why the main character, Daniel Crabtree, is so unlikeable. He was my inner most secrets personified; angry, misanthropic, delusional and scared. His despair at not being recognized as a great writer was my despair. His indifference toward his hometown was mine. But more importantly, his vulnerability that he kept hid lest he get hurt was the same that held me back in life. Crabtree is your typical, naive writer struggling to understand why no one wants to read his work, or publish him. Writing that book, and committing that character to the page, helped me realize my own flaws and the flaws of many other young writers. Since its release, I’ve had a lot of people say how much they identified with Crabtree, how they felt the same way he did about the world, or love, or life. This assures me of two things; the first is that my perspective of the world was more universal that I first assumed, and the second is, I got it right.

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E: To Die Upon A Kiss is from Snubnose Press.  That’s a fabulous title.  What was your inspiration for the story and what can you tell us about it?

C: I was always interested in the idea of writing a story where love was doomed from the onset. I captured that mostly in The Sound of Loneliness with the relationship between Daniel, a young man in his early 20s, who becomes emotionally attached to a girl of 14. But where Daniel and Emma’s love could never begin, I wanted to explore a relationship that was not restricted by age, nor judged by society. But there had to be something that pulled them apart, something that inevitably would get in the way of love. It also had to be built upon unconventional beginnings. Much like Bonnie and Clyde, Wisdom with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore, and Romeo and Juliet, love is skewered by misfortune, and that interested me. So I set about writing the story of a man with a rare heart defect that means he will die within six months. To allow him to overcome his fear of death, he is embroiled in a sick game led by a strange, beautiful woman named Prudence. She allows the man to see death firsthand inducing overdoses in the elderly and manic depressives; the intention being that if he sees how peaceful death can be, it will pacify his own fears of mortality. So that was the seed, and from it grew this strange, existential story that deals with some weighty issues. But really, it is a love story, much the same way The Sound of Loneliness is a love story; flawed and broken.   

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E: On top of being an author, you’re also a fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine.  What is the one submission mistake you keep seeing that you wish everyone would stop making?

C: Not reading the submission guidelines is a big one. I can’t really chastise the writers because I’m a culprit of blind submitting in the past too, but only now do I realize how frustrating it is when the slush is inundated with stories that fall into genres that really turn me off. So yes, please read the submissions. They are there for a reason.

E: What was your journey as a writer like?  Was it something you always wanted to do or did it come later on?

C: I never wanted to be a writer. I’m still unsure about being one now. I think that’s why when people use the word author, or they praise my writing, I’m always looking over my shoulder to see who they’re talking too. I much prefer pictures to words. It’s true. I can spend a good hour on Pinterest and it can seem like only 5 minutes has elapsed. I pull out a book, and invariably, time slows to a crawl. There are great novels out there, and when I find them, I realize how much I love literature again, but those moments are becoming few and far between. This is why I favor movies over books, music, art and photography too. They are less time consuming, and you gain instant gratification, or indifference, whereas books can take you days to reach that point. I’m more an anti-writer, a person who is somehow connected spiritually and has a vested interested, but whose destiny is to be banished to obscurity, but not before being publically ridiculed for their efforts.

E: What was the most helpful piece of writing advice that someone gave you?

C: Quit. You don’t need the hassle.

mouth

 

Craig Wallwork is the pushcart nominated author of the short story collection Quintessence of Dust, and the novels To Die Upon a Kiss, and The Sound of Loneliness. His fiction has appeared in various anthologies, journals and magazines both in the US and UK. He is also the fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine. Craig lives in West Yorkshire, England.  You can find him on his blog.

Recommend It Monday–The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange

I received The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange as a review copy.  This is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

The book started out a little bit slow for me.  It took me a couple of chapters before I really got hooked on it, but once Lange got into the Perpetual Motion Machines, I was hooked.  Elsa is fantastic.  I loved the layers Lange added to that character.  She wants to be different, and that comes with consequences, but she accepts them all (some she handles better than others) and ends up making a difference.  She’s very intelligent, but she’s not always very smart which can be frustrating for some people.  I think it accurately describes a sophomore aged teen.  I also appreciate all of the ways Lange lets Elsa down throughout the story.  The romance plot with Jimmy was a little predictable, but I didn’t really mind that so much because Jimmy was a pretty great kid.  It helped to highlight Elsa’s personal growth when she came to that realization for herself.  The world Lange builds takes the clique dynamic and feeds it steroids.  Most teens feel like high school is life or death, but Lange almost makes that feeling a reality by forcing that dynamic out of the friendship sphere and making it into a career sphere.  Being in the “right circle” now has far greater importance because it can affect where, or if, you attend college and whether you get sponsored or not.  The corporate sponsorship gets to be overwhelming pretty early into the story, but I’m ok with that because I imagine living inside of that atmosphere would be overwhelming.  I think it’s another way to help relate to the characters.

There were a couple of flaws for me.  The most serious one is the lack of an established time.  The story is set in the future, but there is no real marker for me how far into the future it is.  Some moments make it seem like it’s only a decade or so, but others make it seem like it’s much further into the future.  That fluidity of time makes it hard to feel grounded in the story.  Another involves Penn State.  Elsa has a Penn State sweatshirt that she wears all the time.  For her birthday, Jimmy makes her a beret in Penn State’s colors.  The book tells us the hat was blue/yellow and those are not their school colors.  Their colors are blue/white.  This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I’ll mention it since I’ve ranted about it on here before, but “conversate” appears in the novel.  You either converse or you have a conversation.  Is it minor?  Yep.  Like I said, though, it’s a personal thing with me so I’m mentioning it.  It only appears the one time, so unless you are as particular as I am, you probably won’t even notice it’s in there.

I don’t know much about Perpetual Motion Machines, but those sections were the stars for me.  I think it let us see Elsa in a slightly different way than at any other time during the novel.  Plus, the machines themselves were fascinating.  I wish I could have visited Elsa’s FutureWorld display because I think it would have been amazing.

I enjoyed this book.  Is it perfect?  No.  That said, it’s a damn entertaining read.  I plan on passing it along to my 14 year old son to see his take on it.  There’s enough science and math thrown in that I think he’ll enjoy it, too.