Book Review: Tide Ever Rising, by Mandi Slack

TideEverRisingI really enjoyed Mandi’s first book, The Alias, but the moment I started Tide Ever Rising, I couldn’t put it down. I was totally sucked in! If you like mystery, if you like midwest history with a touch of paranormal, you’ll have a great time reading Tide Ever Rising. I found myself Googling information, playing along with the mystery. I knew I wouldn’t find the actual characters, but I’d search the groups, places, and organizations mentioned in the book. I wanted to see if I could find any clues.

My only problem is that now I’m all in the mood for paranormal midwest history paranormal stories, and I’m not sure where to find one.

On top of the great story, Mandy did a great job keeping it squeaky clean, and without gore or excessive violence. And though there are brief mentions of the church or Utah history, it’s clearly written for a more general audience than members of the church, so whether you’re a member of the church or not, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone (I love being able to say that!).

Book Review – The 39 Clues, Book 1: The Maze of Bones

Maybe I’m a bit of a cheeseball, but I like to give ratings to the books I read, similar to movie ratings, in addition to a traditional review. I’ve always thought the G, PG, PG13, and R ratings were a little limited however, so I’ve started using my own system – with the same basic ratings, only using numbers after the PG that are based on age. So instead of only having PG13, which means it’s okay for kids over 13, I use PG5, PG6, PG7, etc, based on my own estimation of what age it’s first appropriate for. Anything under age 5 will probably be G. Anyway, here’s my review of The Maze of Bones:

PG 6: for action and thematic stuff. The main characters are constantly in danger, and can’t trust anyone. A very clean and action-packed mystery.

This is the first Rick Riordan I’ve read yet, and I’d have to say, I’m very impressed. It’s a treasure hunt, and the first of a series. And it’s a good, clean read. Sometimes super-clean reads get the reputation of being boring. This one is not. It’s very entertaining, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure, treasure hunts, mysteries, historical fiction (it’s not historical fiction, but it uses a sort of National Treasure approach to the hunt), or YA fiction.

I suspect this would also be a great book to read out loud to kids. It’s thick enough that a 6 year old probably isn’t going to try it (if they do, AWESOME!), but I think they would really enjoy having it read to them.

Nano: Writing a Full-size Novel in a Month

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On November 1, Jenni I were about to get ready for bed when she mentioned to me that she had a friend who was going to write a novel in a month. When I asked why he was doing it, she told me about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and how it was a group that challenged people to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I laughed, wondering what kind of goof would make such a ridiculous commitment. I love writing, but that would be way too much.

Still…

Then gears started turning in my head. “No,” I told myself, “I’m a nonfiction writer.”

Of course, I knew that wasn’t completely true. Anyone who’s been following the Synergetic Novel knows I’ve at least dabbled in the juvenile fiction genre.

Then my fingers started to itch.

“Argh…” I told myself, “but I’ve got a Christmas CD to be working on. I’ve got two other books in the works right now. Taking on another project would just back up their publication.”

But they wouldn’t be ready for publishing until next year anyway.

Then the laptop started calling my name. It was kind of creepy, actually.

So then I took a deep breath and realized that I would just have to look at the logistics of it all to convince myself that a commitment like that was impractical for my situation. First off, to get 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write about 1,500 words a day – your average high-school essay. That’s not a big deal for a couple days, and every day for a whole month? But I knew I’d need weekends off. So at five days a week, I’d have to do 2000 words a day. Then I figured I’d need Thanksgiving weekend off. Let’s just round it up to 2,500 words a day.

No way. That’s like a five page essay a DAY! Six, if it includes a bit of dialogue! On a good writing day, I could get about 1,000 words an hour – if there was no research necessary.

Then I did a Google search to see what size novel 50,000 words was. According to my research,
The Giver is about 43,000 words, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is about 77,000, and Holes is about 47,000 or so. Even Charlottes Web is only about 32,000.

It was almost time for bed – and it was a weekend. If I were to do it, I’d have to start the next day anyway. I’d sleep on it. It’s always a bad idea to make a decision after 10pm.

As I showered and got ready for bed, a plot started floating around in my head. It was one I came up with years ago, but had finally rejected because it had too little message to it – a plot with no other purpose than entertainment. I’ve always had a hard time justifying working on a major project that didn’t have some kind of benefit to mankind. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, I don’t know.

But if I only had a month to write a book, it would be hard to write it with a grand moral message anyway. To do so would be to risk bombing the novel and the message. So if I was going to bomb a story by taking only a month to write the first draft, it may as well be on a meaningless story.

I didn’t dare decide that night whether or not to participate, but if I did decide to do it, I’d use that story.

With that thought on my mind, I went to bed.

Then the tossing, turning, sleepless night started. All I could think about was the stupid challenge. It was a horrid night, but for some reason, when I woke in the morning, I felt strangely fabulous. I suppose it was because I decided to do it. I determined that after the kids went to bed that night, I would get started.

What on earth was I thinking?!

But I was going to do it.

So how was it?

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It was A BLAST!!!

I truly loved it. I had no idea that writing a novel could be so fun. I’ve decided that with fiction, marathoning is the way to go. My first night I got 3,000 words just to give myself a jump-start. Every night after that I did 3,000 words again. I took weekends and Thanksgiving weekend off, and by the end of November, I had 64,000 words. Three days later (Dec 3), I had my last chapter finished, a bunch of plot-holes filled up, and 70,000 words written. So now I have the roughdraft for The Santa Code, and in a couple weeks (it’s always good to put it down and give it some time before redrafting) I’ll begin the second draft. If I do decide to publish it, I’ll let you all know when it’s ready. I hope to have it ready and published by October, since it’s sort of about a Christmas conspiracy, so the holidays would be a good release time.

Hard work? You better believe it. The biggest challenge for me was staying awake. I usually go to bed around 10:30pm, but now I was getting ready for bed at midnight, and still having to get up at 6:30am for work. While writing, I made sure to keep snacks and a couple arcade games on hand for five-minute wake-up breaks. Remarkably, I never got bored of the work, and though I did occasionally find myself getting distracted with research for the novel, it turned out to be very helpful.

If you love writing, you’d love doing a challenge like this. If you are thinking about it, just do it. You don’t even have to wait till next November when they run the challenge again. Just start writing. If writing isn’t an interest of yours, you probably wouldn’t like it, since it requires a few hours a day writing. But if you enjoy writing, do it! You’ll love it!

NaNoWriMo is an annual thing, so you can bet I’ll be at it again in a year. Yay Nano!

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The Synergetic Novel: Episode 15

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A plump little man in hospital scrubs shuffled his way into the door, pulling a tray with a platter. He looked at Matt, showing an odd lack of surprise at seeing Matt awake.

“Wakey, wakey, eh?” the man said with a gruff scratchy voice, his face leaning in toward Matt’s. “Why it’s about time. You must be right famished. What’s it been, a day?”

“A day? How long have I been here?”

“Pshhht.” The sound was like the mix between a sneeze and huff, “that’s a doctor question, ‘fraid. I’m just a low nurse I am. Be needing your breakfast you will, I am sure.”

“Uh,” Matt said, looking up at the single muffin on the platter. It looked fairly appetizing, but Matt didn’t feel like eating at the moment, “I don’t think I’m hungry, really.”

The man eyed Matt wearily, and Matt could see a rather hastily shaven Continue reading

Episode 14

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Matt had very few memories of his parents, and he couldn’t tell how many of them were genuine and which were formed by a mix of old photographs and his own imagination.He had always had vivid dreams, too, especially in the last moments between sleep and waking. It was in such a moment that Matt saw his parents at a distance, wrapped in each others arms, just like in his favorite photo of the two. They were wrapped up in each other, as if they had the whole planet to themselves.
As he watched them, he felt a sudden urge to come to them, and began to walk toward them. With the great distance, Matt expected it to take a great deal of time to reach them, but as he walked, the distance closed so quickly that in only a few seconds he was nearly close enough to reach out and touch them. They turned, as if to look at him, but their gaze stopped at something beyond him. He turned around. Someone stood only a few feet from him, but as he looked, his vision blurred, and he couldn’t make out the face.

It was a man, he was Continue reading

SN: Episode 13

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(We apologize for our theme problems.  We’re in the process of getting them fixed.  If the audio doesn’t work properly, you can listen at http://chas.willowrise.com)

“Don’t be afraid!” the ghost said quickly, in a gentle voice, very unlike the violent tone he had used when he had last spoken to Matt.

For a moment Matt didn’t move, not sure whether to speak or run.  But before he could decide, the ghost said, “I’m sorry if I frightened you earlier – I should not have been so… abrupt.  But if you’ll give me a chance to explain, I think you’ll know why I did.  It was a mistake.”

“Who are you?” Matt asked, not sure whether to try to sound cautious or firm, “Why are you here?”

He walked closer to Matt, who again noticed that his footsteps made no sound.  But he was as vivid and real as any person, and his speech was clear, though he was now speaking low, almost in a whisper.

“My name is Nams Mourg, but you can just call me Mourg.  I have only been here a short time, but I have been watching you.”

Matt’s expression must have betrayed his thoughts, because Mourg said, “Oh, don’t worry.  I mean you no harm.  In fact, I am a friend.  I have only observed you enough to discover whether or not you could be trusted.  I am now confident that you can.”

Matt didn’t know whether or not he could believe Mourg, but what was he supposed to believe?  After all, he was speaking to a ghost, wasn’t he?

“You are here as… as a ghost, then?”

Mourg lowered his head.  “I am a ghost, of sorts, but I am not completely dead, either.  I’ll explain that in time, but yes, that is how I’ve been watching you.”

“Did you once live here?  Why are you here?”

Mourg shook his head.  He stared at Matt for a moment, as if deciding how much to tell him.  Instead of speaking immediately, he turned toward the living room.

“Perhaps we should sit.  We have a lot to talk about.”
“You are in great danger here,” Mourg said, sitting forward on the couch.

“Danger?  What kind of danger.”  Matt couldn’t help wondering how a ghost who walked through walls could sit on a chair without falling through.  Then again, shouldn’t he fall through floors, too?  He wanted to ask, but if ghosts were normally as sociable as this one, there was probably some kind of propriety issue involved with discussing what ghosts could and couldn’t do.

That thought made Matt wonder why ghosts seem to think it was acceptable to just come into people’s houses without invitation.  Didn’t they consider it trespassing?  But then, where would they go?  Certainly ghost culture would be quite different from living human culture.

Mourg stared at him.  His face was clear, and as Matt looked in his eyes, he felt an uncomfortable sensation.  Mourg looked quickly away.  “I hope you will come to trust me,” he said, “I know it must be strange for you to be talking to someone who… well, someone like me.  I understand.”

“What kind of danger am I in?”

“I’m sure you’ve never heard of Ions before?”  It was half statement, half question, and Mourg waited for a response.

“Only when you mentioned them earlier today.”

“They are pillagers.  They are constantly causing havoc and trouble.  But worse than that, they are organized and use strange magic to manipulate the world around them.  They are evil, and dangerous.”

Matt wondered if these Ions were ordinary people or ghosts.  They didn’t sound like a group Matt wanted to meet.  “What do you mean?  Who are they?  Where did they come from?”

“They call themselves Ions, but my people call them marauders.      They have a strange, twisted connection with animals, perhaps they are part animal.  They are from a distant land – a very distant land.  It would take some time to tell you everything, but know that they are both dangerous and powerful.”

“But what are they doing here?”

“I wish I knew for sure, but I can’t help thinking that you have something to do with it.”

“Me?” Matt asked, confused. “What connection would I have with them?”

At that moment there was a knock on the front door, and Mourg rolled back into the couch – IN to the couch.  Seeing it made Matt’s stomach turn over, and he hoped this was all some mistake that would clear up soon so he could get back to normal life.  Though completely out of site, Mourg’s voice was clear, “Remember, you’re in danger!  Do not trust anyone!  It could be Ion marauders, or a messenger.  Be careful!”

Matt opened the door slowly, ready to press it closed again if necessary.  When he recognized Alice from the library, he opened it further, but glanced behind his back. He didn’t want her to see Mourg, so he stepped out and pulled the door closed behind him.

“Hey!” he said, trying not to bump into Alice.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, backing up and nearly stepping off the porch, “I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”

“What, oh, no, I was just… no, it’s fine.  How are you?  It’s Alice, right?”  He felt silly, though he wasn’t sure why.

She smiled, and nodded.  “And you’re Matt.  I hope it’s okay I stopped by.  I found something I thought you might find interesting.”

“About my Uncle’s books?”

“And Nigel.  I guess I could have waited until you returned, but I found something that I couldn’t wait to show you.  Do you have Internet access at home?”

“Yeah, what did you – oh, uh, I mean, we had the Internet.  It’s not offline, er, online  – it’s down.”  Why couldn’t he bring himself to tell her about the ghost?  Was he just trying to protect her, or was he afraid of sounding stupid in front of her?  He had already done that.  What if she was an Ion?  Mourg didn’t get the chance to tell Matt much about Ions before Alice came.  His first time meeting her was this morning.  Maybe she had been set there to get information from him, which he had just handed over.

But that didn’t make sense.  First off, what would his uncle’s books have to do with Ions?  Second, Alice had been at the library when he met her, and no one knew he was headed there.  But then there was that whole thing about her acting like she already knew him.

“Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just tell you,” she said, “ I was looking at Google Maps, and I – what’s wrong?”

Matt didn’t look at her.  He was staring across the street.  Then in a low tone, he said, “Don’t turn around, but there’s someone watching us.”

But he said it too late.  She had already turned, and the moment she moved, the figure ducked behind a bush.

“What?  I don’t see anyone.  Where?”

Because it was now sunset, Matt had only seen a silhouette, though Matt thought it had looked more like a boy than a man.

“Wait here, I’ll be right back.”  He looked at her.  Her face showed amusement.  Did she think he was being silly?  Of course she did, but what could he tell her?  If he was being watched, followed, or pursued by someone, he didn’t want her in danger too.  “It’s probably nothing, but Alice, if anything happens…”

Now her amusement turned to suppressed giggles.
“What?”

She laughed out loud, “I’m sorry Matt, I couldn’t help it. You’re just acting so dramatic!”  She leaned in, and with a playful tone, whispered, “Should I play along?  I could act frightened if you want.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What? No, I’m serious, Alice, we could be in danger!”  If there really was a kid watching them, Matt wanted to be able to recognize him, and identify him.  If it was just a neighbor kid, so be it, but if it was an Ion, how would he know it?

He looked at Alice, suddenly wishing she hadn’t come over, but not sure what to do with her now.  At least if she saw Mourg, she would realize that Matt wasn’t just being paranoid.  “I’ll be right back.”

He moved quickly from his yard into the street, thinking his best chance was to simply startle the kid and get a good look at him.  Matt knew if he didn’t hurry, all chance of finding him would be gone.  Was he a spy of some kind?  Or perhaps a decoy?  If so, then he’d better be careful, there could be others waiting.  Barely had the thought formulated when a horn blazed and Matt turned in time to see headlights.  There was a loud screech, and after a sudden momentary impact, everything went dark.

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The Synergetic Novel: Episode 11

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Matt stared at her.

“Actually, it’s been a lot of fun to research,” the librarian said.  “This has always been a curious little town to me.  My Grandparents grew up here and own a house nearby, so I’ve been to visit often throughout my life.  When my Grandpa passed away I offered to move in with Grandma so I could attend school here.  She’s really independent but she’s grateful for the company.”

A teenage boy stood by, waiting to check out some books.  “Oh, excuse me for a minute,” she said, turning to the boy.

Matt watched her.  She spoke to Matt as though she knew him well.  Was she just a very trusting person, or was she mistaking him for someone else?  And how did she know Continue reading