Book Review: I Will Hold My Death Close

10502254_592407747547506_7740250097570509581_nI Will Hold My Death Close by Stant Litore

Available for pre-order on Amazon for your Kindle

Circa 1120 BC – Israel –

The story is based loosely on the events of Judges 11 where Jephthah (Yeptha) promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees upon his return home for victory over his enemies.  The first thing, he sees his daughter and only child.

So one might expect that the story to be told from the father’s perspective and involve his internal struggle keeping such a horrible promise.  This is however an installment of the Zombie Bible and Stant Litore has a way of turning the story you know into something beautifully different. Something powerful.

Jephthah’s daughter is marked for death and flees to the hills where she has to fight for her life from the unburied dead (zombies).    She fights off the dead knowing that at any moment, her father could appear with his stone blade in hand to take her life on the sacrificial alter.   Through the course of her struggles, she remembers the songs of her mother and how she stood again the unburied dead with only a stick.  She fights to keep her death close and her own.

The centuries to come will not remember her name. But generations of young women will climb the hills to remember her.

Litore once again proves that he is a master storyteller.  This story didn’t let me go for a moment and literally left me grasping for breath at end.  He has taken the story of Jephthah’s daughter and elevated beyond the scanty lines in Judges 11 to something incredibly powerful.  No matter what your faith or spiritual path, there is something that you will find to love in this book.  I really am in awe of Litore at this moment and can’t wait to see what he writes next.

Kickstarting Zombies

Stant Litore
Stant Litore

One of my favorite authors, Stant Litore, has begun Kickstarter campaign to help fund his latest project.

Here is it in his own words. If you can please invest in this unique project, thank you.

Whether you want to read about a zombie apocalypse in the Middle East in 1160 BC, or in second-century Rome, or enjoy the dark, brooding, philosophical horror of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah entombed with the undead in a dry well — The Zombie Bible has incredible stories to tell.

I began the series in 2009 and published the first novel in fall 2011.

I’m still struggling to break even financially with the series, given my daughter’s continuing medical crisis; she has suffered debilitating seizures since she was 11 days old. A moment of profound wonder and blessing in my life was the moment that her medical bills and my royalties began arriving on the very same day, allowing me to cancel out those expenses.

So far, this set of standalone, read-them-in-any-order novels includes:

  • Death Has Come Up into Our Windows – an Old Testament prophet trapped in a dry well with the ravenous dead.
  • What Our Eyes Have Witnessed – Polycarp has a Gift. He can bring rest and peace to the restless dead. But Rome might burn him for it.
  • Strangers in the Land – A zombie apocalypse in 1160 BC Israel. Four must stand against the dead…if they can first stand together.

Right now, as I write this, I’m wrapping up the fourth book, No Lasting Burial, retelling a New Testament story (you can read about it here), and I am deep into planning something amazing.

Now I want to do something even bigger. Something even more ambitious. Something daring.

This summer, I want to undertake my largest project yet — a project of a truly epic scope. A 700-1000 page novel in which one courageous woman will lead thousands of refugees from the ruins of zombie-infested Rome. This novel has quiet, intimate moments and panoramic set pieces grander than anything I’ve ever attempted:

  • The Colosseum converted into a refugee camp, defended by a small band of gladiators
  • The descent of an angel by night over Rome (and by angel, don’t think of a little cherub of wings. Think seraph. Picture a being of grace and beauty and unthinkable power, a being that might juggle supernovas like tennis balls).
  • A face-off with the Roman emperor while zombies blaze in flames behind his throne.
  • A desperate exodus down a road lined with tens of thousands of crosses, on which the Roman legions in their rage and grief have crucified the writhing, moaning undead.
  • A final escape sequence that will leave you awed. All I can tell you about it right now is that it is big.

I am very excited about this project. More than I can possibly express.

I have proven that I can deliver a moving, evocative, and thrilling novel that mashes up history, biblical stories and themes, and zombie horror. Now I want to take this to the next level. I want to deliver not just a zombie story, but a zombie epic.

But I need your help.

The fact is, I’m financially strapped. I’m caring for my 1 1/2 year old daughter Inara‘s special needs, which are considerable (though I am heartened by her incredible inner joy — for those interested, you can read Inara’s story and how her story is linked to The Zombie Bible here) and I need both time and funding to:

  • Undertake some ambitious research this summer and fall, while I continue outlining and sketching the key sequences of the novel.
  • Secure a series of retreats or a “sabbatical” during the winter 2013-14 and spring 2014 — time away to just write. There are 1,000 pages of story to tell, and for both my readers’ sake and my own, I don’t want it to take as long to complete as A Game of Thrones.

I want to ask for your help raising a $10,000 crowd-sourced advance to fund my work on this novel, and I want to invite you into the excitement of its creation.

Some of the higher-tier prizes you’ll find over to the right offer exclusive previews into the novel in the midst of the creative process — or even offer you opportunity to brainstorm with me. I hope you’ll check them out, and consider joining me in this adventure in a hands-on way.

But even if all you have is a dollar in your pocket, I’d appreciate your help. A kickstarter campaign is all-or-nothing; I have to make that $10,000 goal to receive any funding. And a dollar may make all the difference in helping make this unique novel happen.

To contribute to the campaign, click here.

Letting Go..

deadeverafterRecently, I discovered that one of my favorite authors was ending a series that I have been reading for the better part of ten years.  It saddens me, but I get it. She needs to me move on and it is time for us to let go Sookie Stackhouse and her fangy friends. Charlaine Harris‘s series has been going strong since 2001.  There have been bums along the way, but fans have been eating the books up.

So much so that some fans have threatened to kill themselves if she goes ahead with her plans.If you are one of these fans please seek help immediately.  Serious, do not stop on go just get help now.

As readers we get attached to characters and tend to forget that there are living breathing people behind them.  I haven’t always agreed with what characters in my favorite books have done.  (Richard in the Anita Blake series is lucky I couldn’t bitch slap him.) The people behind the keys giving life to our favorite stories are the ones that create the worlds we love. The worlds I aspire as a writer to make. And since my style of writing is akin to Ms. Harris, I feel sympathy for her situation.

It may be easy to say to an author that they should continue to write because they are making money, but writers like teachers don’t do it for the money. We do it because we are can’t help ourselves. And yes, I said we, because regardless of whether or not I reach the level of success as Ms. Harris has I will continue to write.  It is our passion and when the passion begins to fade for a storyline it is time to move on. Maybe we will come back to it in time.

Mercedes Lackey said this about her long running series “Hey, everybody needs a vacation, even from the best job. So, until I come up with a story set in Velgarth that is as compelling as the ones you’ve enjoyed in the past, I’m taking a break. The last thing I want is for my own favorite series to start limping along and go out with a whimper.”

Authors need breaks to recharge their creative juices and while I will miss the Stackhouse Series I understand.

Fellow readers I know that you are upset, but give Ms. Harris some room. She has been writing this series for over ten years.  She wanted to end it years ago, but kept going when the HBO series took off. She has already gone on after she wanted to quit for you,me, and the almighty dollar so let her be. The quality of the books have suffered.  As much as I loved them somewhere after book four, I got lost. She tried it your way and she still wants to go. Let her.

And while you are at it pick up some of her other great series.  Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden and the Harper Connelly series are all excellent. (My personal favorite is the Aurora Teagarden series.)

Stalking and taunting your favorite author into producing something won’t work the way you want it, too. Trust me, when people have gotten unpleasantly freaky with me I back off.  So let us take a moment, be thankful and let Sookie go.

Thank you, Ms. Harris, I look forward to your next series or book and I am so very grateful for your stories.

Love, Hugs and Moo’s,

Lu

The End is Nigh…

Or so I hope.

The weekend was not as productive as I had hoped. Sleep over took most of it. There was some editing and housework in between naps.

Bring my novella to a conclusion has proven far harder than I imagined and that is without the cold or the impending state testing.  My students have FCAT Writes on Tuesday. It is a nerve racking day for all involved.  All the work we have done all year will be judged in one hour. Scary isn’t it, given the number of factors involved that one day determines so much.

But, that is life. You work for months if not years on a project and then in a blink of an eye your work is judged by others who have no idea about the process or the struggle involved. All that matters is the end product.

When I finish Blood Child all that will matter is whether the story is a good one. The results of my work won’t be known for months after I am finished and Blood Child is published.  My students will get their results by May.  Good luck, kids. I know you will do your best. Just like your teacher.

Gratitude Day 1 – Life

There have been a lot of complaints sliding past my lips these last couple of weeks. It has been draining and emotionally, I feel like I have been run through the ringer.

Looking over my previous words, I know they reflect a flaw in my own thinking. No one has run me through anything, but me.  I am responsible party in my tales of woe.

I can not control everything that happens. Hell, I can’t control most of what happens.

But, I am here and I am thankful.

Thankful for every ache and pain.

Because I am here and I am grateful for everyday.

Each new dawn, a change to make my world a little better.

I am grateful.

Storybook collection

Never Too Old For A Storybook or Three..

Storybook collection
Some of My Storybooks

Last week’s unstated theme was obsession and addiction.

My worst addiction is a life long one. My addiction to the written word began when I was an infant. My family read to me, my teachers encouraged me and in books I found the friends I was unable to make in real life. And it all began with storybooks.

As adults, we are told that we must put aside childish things.  Stuff animals, trophies and yearbooks are often packed away or given to the next generation.  Storybooks are the very opposite of childish to me.  They are highly portable pieces of the imagination. Their pages transport us to far off places in seconds.  Images and words working their magic on our hearts and minds.

Kids frequently rush to leave behind the childish things, but some how they aren’t making it to adulthood complete enough to think on their own.  They never make the connection between their lack of knowledge and dislike of reading. They don’t care about what they don’t know and never see the dangers of not being able to read well or think on their own.

Beowulf: A Hero's Tale Retold
Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold

For the struggling readers in my classroom, I recommend reading storybooks as well as other children’s books. Although the language is simplified, the ideas are not.

Hidden among the pages of many books are fabulous vocabulary words to be learned from context clues.  A skill, students are drilled on over and over again, but is needed less and less frequently in the materials that they are tested on.  (Testing materials are more and more frequently being drawn texts which are copyright free and by their nature lacking in context clues.) They can explore worlds and people in short time.

They can help the kids make up for lost time.

Teaching introduced me to a whole new world of storybooks, ones that found me even as I labored deep in the education mines.  Difficult or challenging concepts can be introduced with them.  Or in my classroom, stories that my students would read on their own.

Gilgamesh the King
Gilgamesh the King

A well crafted children’s book is a treasure.  Gilgamesh the King retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman found me this week and reminded of how much I hated it in college.  I missed the beauty of the tale, one of the world’s oldest stories.  I wish I had read Zeman’s retelling before I read the Epic of Gilgamesh and wrote worst paper of my academic career.  I missed the major themes of epic and though the paper was clever it wasn’t what the professor was looking for.  The imagery that would have been created by ancient storytellers is depicted by the illustrations.  Now, I get it.  Well I like it, at least.

Cleopatra
Cleopatra

Then there is the story of Cleopatra which found its way into hands the same day as Gilgamesh the King.  I have always loved the Elizabeth Taylor classic – Cleopatra.  So much of what I believed about her as fact was shaped by that movie.  Cleopatra by Diane Stanley & Peter Vennema opened my eyes.  Facts and storytelling merged into a fantastic book that is both enlightening and enchanting.

I used what I learned from reading Cleopatra the next day in class.

Read, read and read some more. And if ever lose your love of reading go back to the beginning and pick up a storybook.  Of course, you don’t have to go that far to read one.

Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton

Take Two on Micah – Book Review

Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton
Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton

Review of Micah by Laurell K.Hamilton

Available from Amazon.com

Beyond Facebook Games I have another serious addiction – Laurell K. Hamilton books.  Each time a new book comes out I reread the entire series.  Last week, I finished Micah, previously my least favorite of the series. It has now successful moved up…

The first time I read it, I was in a new book hazy rushing to get my fix and that is when I missed it.  This book like Obsidian Butterfly was a chance for readers to get to know a well liked character.  Micah has been Anita’s go to guy since his first appearance in Obsidian Butterfly.  He is the only man in her life that doesn’t argue with her, well, besides Nathaniel, but his background is well covered in the books.

It isn’t as clever as Obsidian Butterfly, no big bad monster to defeat or befriend; instead this book is about Anita’s emotional development and how she begins to learn one of the hardest truths of being in a relationship, don’t poke at it until break.  It is a lot harder than you think.

Long term fans of the series love Anita because not only does she kick ass she goes through the same mental obstacle courses that many folks tackle in throughout their lifetimes.  Her struggles with her paranormal lovers and friends artfully echo real life.  What do you do with the man you love when he hates himself and you for still loving him? And how after so much betrayal do you let yourself trust someone who seems to good to be true and isn’t actually.  How do you let yourself be in love when love seems so toxic?

This read through I discovered there was way more to the plot than I original thought. Sticking to my tradition helped me see where this book falls in the series.