Tues. Nov. 19: Family via Trilogies #ReaderExpansionChallenge


image courtesy of badski007 via pixabay.com

For some reason, the third week of November has crept up on me. I’ve been looking for the “right” book for this post, and nothing I’ve read really spoke to me.

I don’t necessarily mean blood family by family; chosen family is just as relevant.

So, instead, I’m going to talk about two sets of books, by two different authors. One has to do with blood family; the other draws the contrast between blood family and chosen family.

They are Tanya Huff’s Gale Women books and Theodora Goss’s The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club books.

As different as they are, they deal with both magic and family.

Tanya Huff’s trilogy consists of THE ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM, THE WILD WAYS, and THE FUTURE FALLS. The Gale women wield powerful magic and have to follow strict rules of behavior, conduct, and lineage. They have the capacity to tap enormous power, and are trapped by the responsibility that go with it. Those who break the rules are considered “wild” and tolerated for a time, until it’s felt they must be dealt with — especially the men. They keep it within the family through the few men in the family choosing among the many women. The men manifest the stag — which also means they challenge each other, and, when they are no longer strong enough to hold the magic, they are hunted down, killed, and replaced. That, and the way sex and magic are entwined, have made some reviewers (and readers) uncomfortable.

It draws on the myths of the hunt and the change of seasons, and translates them into modern day life. The magic system is detailed and thought out. Huff isn’t making everything all pretty and sweet. Life is brutal and cruel at times, and she doesn’t shy away from it. The necessity for change and cycles and the strong taking over from the week determines survival. When the world of Gale magic rubs up against the regular world, there’s friction.

How the protagonists of the series deal with that is what drives the books and makes them interesting.

Sex matters in the books. It’s both revered and a natural part of life. Many of the characters are pansexual and/or polyamorous without making a big deal out of it. Also, those labels we’re used to using for uncontained love are too limiting for this trilogy, and the characters aren’t labeled. It’s simply the way it is for them. When they find their true partner, that bond is strong, but not necessarily monogamous. Their world runs on a different concept of love and sex and partnership than most people are used to; once that premise is accepted by the reader, everything else makes sense.

The family members love each other even when they don’t always like each other or get along. They fight. They manipulate. The Aunties (who have the most power) try to run the lives of all the younger members, and each other. There’s rebellion.

Yet, when it comes right down to it, they are there for each other. It’s family first. Sometimes sacrifices of each other have to be made for the good of the family. How they disagree with these decision and either succeed in doing what’s needed or finding workarounds is part of what makes the series so interesting.

It’s also set in Canada. Americans don’t get enough books set in Canada, in my experience. As someone who believes setting is an additional character, I was delighted that the first book was set in Calgary and the second on Cape Breton Island. I got to visit places that have fascinated me and learn how important they are to the plot, story, and characters. (The third book is in a variety of locations and times, and that’s all I can say without giving too much away).

As an only child, I both loved the sense of family, and was glad I didn’t have to deal with all those complications!

There are also a lot of clever references to cultural icons. I hesitate to say “pop culture” because these books have been around for awhile, and pop culture changes so fast. But let’s just say that the choice of “Gale” was quite deliberate.

I love the way Huff weaves all the different elements of their world, the real world, and the magic together. It’s a terrific trilogy, and I kept thinking about it long after I read it.

I came across Theodora Goss’s books by accident. I read the second book in the series first, EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTEROUS GENTLEWOMAN, and then went back and read THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. I have not yet read the third book, THE SINISTER MYSTERY OF THE MESMERIZING GIRL, but it’s on my list.

This is a group of chosen family: Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappincini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. These women, who the men in their lives considered their “creations” have broken free and vowed to create their own future — working and living together. They know they’re considered “monsters” by the world, but not by each other. The fascinating way Goss turns what we learned in our literature classes inside out and takes it further is clever and inventive.

The books are told in multiple points of view, and the characters often interrupt each other in the middle of a POV. Difficult to pull off, but Goss does it, and does it well. I’ve read plenty of attempts at this type of style; all the others have come across as a mess.

The books are set in the late nineteenth century, when changes and thought and controversy abounded. How they make use of these changes, how it makes the leap weaving in the fantastical elements, is truly breathtaking.

The characters are strong and vulnerable and wonderful, the adventures heart-stopping, with high stakes for these women. They are committed to determining their own lives, not living at the whims of those who “created” them; and they are determined to help other women who are struggling with the same fate.

Again, there are conflicts between them. They often argue. Yet, they’ve created a family. When it matters, they are there for each other.

Both of these are trilogies. Because family can’t be contained in a single book. And, in both cases, you can’t contain love. It’s a force that’s beyond what humans can restrict, and when they try to micromanage it too much, there’s trouble and pain.

If you haven’t read them, I hope you will read them, enjoy them, and comment.

What did you read this month?

December’s book is a winter holiday-themed book, and we will discuss what we read on Tuesday, December 17. Have a great month!

Karina Fabian Talks MIND OVER MIND!

Karina Fabian and I first met at the Muse Online Conference, the first year I started teaching there. That’s about six or seven years ago. We take each other’s classes whenever possible, and support each other’s work. She’s a wonderful writer, teacher, and friend.

With MIND OVER MIND, she goes into a new and exciting direction, and she was kind enough to share some of the process with us.

Devon Ellington: What was the spark of inspiration for MIND OVER MIND?

Karina Fabian: Which version? This one has gone through so many revisions and major rewrites, it’s not the same book I thought up in high school and wrote in college. But let’s go to the very beginning (’cause I told the other stories on my virtual book tour earlier this month.)

I adored the Wrinkle in Time series and especially Charles Wallace, but Madeleine L’Engle never wrote about him as a grownup, except for a one-liner to say he was on a secret mission somewhere. So I made up my own adventures for him. One, imagined while I was in Junior ROTC camp, was about him helping an alien world fight a war and feeling very conflicted about it. I remember telling this story to a guy friend of mine late one night in the compound because the officers came to roust us back to our tents. I had really been enjoying telling the story, and it must have shown because this Army Major (?) exclaimed, “If I saw your face in the moonlight, I’d want to hang out here all night, too!”

Obviously, Deryl bears no resemblance to Charles Wallace, but I think I still get that look on my face when I talk about my stories–at least, if the reaction of my husband is any indication.

DE: When in the process did you know it needed to be a trilogy?

KF: The last major rewrite. Deryl had too many problems to overcome to make it a single book, and then I had some awesome ideas for Tasmae. You think Deryl goes nuts? Just wait for Mind Over Psyche. Tasmae is freeeeeaky! So, the last book finally resolves the war between the worlds.

DE: Did you have to do particular research for the book? Did you discover anything surprising that changed the trajectory of the book?

KF: I did some research on neurolinguistic programming, which is a very interesting field of psychology. I also spent a terrific afternoon in college working out the orbits of the two planets with my astronomy professor. I’m not sure the research changed the trajectory so much as when I decided to change the book, the research (which I’d done for a class in college a decade earlier) became important for the story.

DE: Did it feel strange to be in a completely different world than Vern’s? (Note: Vern the Dragon PI is one of the first characters of Karina’s with whom I fell in love).

KF: It is, but I love the variety. The DragonEye stories are snarky and sometimes serious, but always amusing. Sometimes, even slapstick. I love writing Vern because of his superior, smug way of looking at things. He is an immortal dragon, after all. (Incidentally, he compliments you on your excellent taste.)

With the characters in the Mind Over, I am human. They don’t laugh at danger the way Vern can. When Deryl acts snarky and superior, it’s usually in defensiveness. It’s also a very freaky experience to really get into the mind of someone who by all rights is insane. I do that once a book. It’s like LSD without the flashbacks and illegality.

KF: What are some of the other projects on your plate right now?

KF: For Vern lovers! Live and Let Fly comes out April 2012 from MuseItUp. Vern and Sister Grace are sent on a super-spy adventure to prevent a Norse goddess from destroying our world. Looks like Vern has a steady publishing home now, so Gapman will be the next one. That’s a superhero spoof.

Also, Mother Goose is Dead is out from Damnation Books. Vern wrote an article in it about the common fairy-tale-based scams. Get it and get smart–don’t fall prey to a Faerie scam!

I’m editing DISCOVERY, my first Rescue Sisters novel. Three nuns from the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue join a group of researchers and asteroid miners to retrieve a crashed alien ship. They find a device that can diagnose the soul, and the mission–and their lives–are endangered because not everyone can handle that discovery.

After that, I have to finish Neeta Lyffe II: I Left My Brains in San Francisco. It’s 80 percent done. I also need to write Mind Over All, the last in the Mind Over trilogy. (Book Two is at DragonMoon right now.)

In the hopper of my mind is another trilogy, Damsels and Knights, which involves Capt. Michael Santry, chief of the Los Lagos police and Vern’s least favorite person; some children’s short stories about a mouse moving into a church; the Witch Androvitch stories; and a space opera when Rob (my husband) and I can sit down and work out a plot. It’s been a long time since we collaborated on a story. Speaking of collaboration: I’m working on another story with Colleen Drippe, about a priest who gets transported to the fairy realm and turned into a dragon.

I also have two book tours coming up for FRIGHTLINER and NEETA LYFFE, ZOMBIE EXTERMINATOR, a DragonEye PI serial story for Christmas, and another for the new year.

DE: I am, by turns, officially exhausted and exhilarated by all that! I remember Neeta very well — so glad she found a home! I’m looking forward to ALL of these books — and I hope you’ll stop by here as each releases!

: Deryl Stephen’s uncontrollable telepathic abilities have landed him in a mental health institution, where no one believes in his powers.

But when Joshua Lawson, a student of neuro linguistic programming, takes part in a summer internship, he takes the unique step of accepting Deryl’s reality and teaches him to work with it. As Deryl learns control, he finds his next challenge is to face the aliens who have been contacting him psychically for years—aliens who would use him to further their cause in an interplanetary war.

Ydrel threw himself into wakefulness with such force that he sat up in bed. Still, the nightmare images clung to his mind: the beat of a hundred hearts, the smell of sweat and fear. He clutched his stomach and fought the urge to scream.

A hundred bodies crowded around him, crushing him against the splintered wood of the boxcar.

No, this isn’t real!

No room to move. No air to breathe. Suffocating. Drowning.

No, this isn’t me!

Confusion and fear. Fear the trip would never end. Terror of what waited at its completion.

NO! These aren’t MY memories!!


Ydrel threw up shaky mental barriers. The visions faded, just slightly. He forced his eyes open, drinking in reassurance from familiar objects.

He sat in bed, an oversized twin, backed up against pillows rather than splintered wood. Pre-dawn light shone softly through the blinds. On the nightstand, Descartes regarded him with one button eye. The only thing left from before his mother died, he’d slept with that bear until an orderly commented on his “abnormal attachment.” Since then it had stood watch over him instead, braced against the lamp. Even now, without any orderlies around, Ydrel resisted the urge to clutch it close to his chest, but he reached out to touch one tattered foot.

On the shelf beside the window sat a portable boom box, a gift from his first birthday here—his thirteenth. Five years ago, today. The maintenance man had disabled the volume control after Ydrel played it too loudly. Thereafter, he’d found other ways to block out the moans and occasional screams that penetrated the closed door. Happy birthday.

The stereo held up several books. He was studying them in case it called. He both dreaded and longed for the calls. Each episode only gave them more reason to keep him here, yet there was something as familiar and comforting about it as his old bear.

He turned his gaze to the far wall and the framed pictures of a nebula and the solar system by his half-empty closet. On his sixteenth birthday, he’d been allowed to decorate his room and he’d chosen those posters and a mild blue paint to replace the still–lifes and the institutional burgundy-and-pink color scheme. While it had been a relief to his eyes, it was also a constant reminder that they never intended for him to leave.

This is my room, he thought. In the asylum. Even after five years, he’d never call it home. He’d never give Malachai the satisfaction.


Calmer now, his mental barriers in place, Ydrel allowed himself to examine the vision that awakened him. Hundreds of bodies packed into a train car not suited for twenty. Most had traveling clothes, but had shed them against the heat. No room to move. The air was stifling and stale. No one knew where they were going. Some suspected, but said nothing. The destination was worse than the trip.

Ydrel sighed. Isaac was on the train to Dachau again.

Ydrel threw off the covers and dressed quickly in a blue t-shirt and jeans, socks and generic sneakers. Already Isaac’s projected fear was breaking down his mental defenses; Ydrel’s fingers trembled as he fumbled with the laces.

Once out in the corridor, he hastened to the old man’s room, forcing himself to keep his pace smooth, his face composed. Someone would stop him if he hurried or looked distressed, and any delay would be unbearable. As he walked he got into character. His stride lengthened; his face hardened. He held his hands relaxed but ready by his hips. When he got to Isaac’s door, he cast a wary look down the hall, then slipped in.

The old man lay on a standard hospital bed, his wide, wild eyes staring at the ceiling but focused on his inner horrors. His hands fluttered helplessly on the thin coverlet. He labored for each ragged breath.

Ydrel sat beside him and composed his own vision.

The train stops so suddenly that people would have been thrown down if they hadn’t been so tightly packed in. The sound of gunfire and shouts in German. The boxcar door opens with a rusty screech. Someone yells in Yiddish, then German: “Out! Now! Quickly, to the woods—to the south!” Relief from the press of bodies, then a new pressure as the flow of people pushes him through the door. Someone grabs his arm—

Ydrel grabbed Isaac by the arm as he pushed the new vision into the old man’s mind.

Isaac blinked, twisted toward Ydrel, then smiled, his eyes bright with tears. “Gideon! Old friend. Thank God!”

Mind Over Mind Materials
Title: Mind Over Mind
Author: Karina Fabian
ISBN: 978-1897942369
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Over-Karina-L-Fabian/dp/1897942362
Kindle Link: http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Over-ebook/dp/B005D94LI0

: Unlike her characters, Karina Fabian lives a comfortably ordinary life. Wife to Air Force Colonel Robert Fabian and mother of four, her adventures usually involve packing and moving, attending conventions, or giving writing and marketing advice in one of her many workshops. She’s always had an overactive imagination, however, and started writing in order to quell the voices in her head–characters who insisted on living lives in her mind and telling her their stories. Winner of the 2010 INDIE award, winner and finalist for the EPPIE and finalist for the Global e-book awards, she’s glad people enjoy reading the tales her characters tell.

Website: http://fabianspace.com
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