Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Settling the Score

Settling the ScoreSettling the Score by Eden Winters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joey Nichols is hoping for a new life, away from his small Georgia town at the side of his love, former smalltown boy and now up-and-coming Hollywood star Riker. How bitterly disillusioned is he when his boyfriend casually annonces the end of their relationship over prime time TV. What's worse, Joey has to learn about Riker's two-timing from the tabloid press; Riker's snide remarks about Joey are all over the internet for everyone to see. In the middle of being shunned by half his hometown and having insults and eggs hurled at him for being gay, Joey finds remarkable support from his family. A stubborn lot, the Nichols's prepare to ride out the wave of rejection, enduring hardships out of their love for Joey, which only adds to Joey's shame and embarrassment.

Troy Steele is a successful writer who had his books made into even more successful movies. But his success came at a high price: in order to fit in with the persona his publicists created for him, Troy allowed himself changed out of recognition. Estranged even from himself and still smarting from his former lover Ian's betrayal, which once broke up a wonderful relationship for him, Troy leads the life of a recluse, turning into a bitter old man at only thirty - eight.

This changes when Troy and his PA Erica watch Joey's day of humiliation on TV. Quick - witted, calculating, firecely loyal Erica immediately recognizes Joey's potential as a means of retaliation. What's more, his fate happens to match the new book Troy is currently writing, and Joey promises first - class research material. They end up offering Joey a chance to "reveal his inner swan" as Erica puts it, and with a little coaxing, Joey accepts.

As the weeks go by, Troy finds himself more and more taken by his new assistant and reseach object. There is so much more to Joey than meets the eye. Alongside Joey, Troy changes, not only on his outward appearance, but also in his view of life and in the order of his priorities. But then Troy's conscience kicks in: in using Joey for his personal revenge, is he any better than Riker or Ian? Before he can tell Joey the truth, though, Joey finds out on his own and leaves. Now Troy has to come up with an equivalent of diamonds and flowers good enough to reconcile him with his down-to-earth auto mechanic.

This book was a real treat to read, a brilliant and originate take on the old Pygmalion theme. The story gripped me from the start and took me on a wonderful ride into the ideal world. Who wouldn't wish for a world where both the bad and the good harvest what they sow in spades? The beauty of this particular tale lay in the fact that it turned its fairytale-ish concept into something that could have actually happened for real. Both Troy and Joey were no fairy-tale princes who had their happiness fall into their laps, they had to figure out what they wanted first and then to work hard for it. They were real human beings, with flaws, weaknesses and quirks, they made consequential mistakes, hurt others out of thoughtlessness and selfishness and still had enough inner goodness and conscience to realize where they had erred and go about righting their wrongs. They were two of the most human, most likeable characters I've met lately in fiction, perfect examples of Eden Winter's incredible skill with characterization. The secondary cast was just as perfect, down to minor characters like bully Chuck and hypocritically friendly neighbor Andrew. I particularly loved Joey's family - not the picture-perfect American family at all, but unwavering in their love and loyalty for Joey and perfect where it counted. The only less than real character was Erica, although also one of the most likeable - she was a bit over the top in her fairy-godmotherhood, but I could easily forgive her since she was exactly what Troy and Joey needed, and boy, did that tiny pixie pack a punch!

The wonderful characterizations, the sparkling dialogue and the great, easily flowing writing easily made up for the occasionally quite far-fetched plot. The entire tale breathed heartfelt honesty, down to the last little pieca of dialect worked in, down to the stark reality of our media-ridden world where everyone's deepest secrets can be dragged to light over the internet, laid bare for anyone to trample on.

A book that went immediately to my keeper shelf, to be pulled out and read again and again. Heartily, thoroughly recommended.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sarah Black Interview

The lovely Sarah Black, author of Idaho Battlegrounds, interviewed me today on my first published story, Desert Falcon.

Sarah Black interviews Feliz Faber on the release of her new story, Desert Falcon, from Dreamspinner Press

Sarah: Your new story, Desert Falcon, has such an exotic setting. Can you tell us about it? Do you have experience yourself in this region of the world?
Feliz: In a way, the setting came with the main character. When I first met Hunter, I went looking for a place where he could have become as devoted to falconry as he is, and the first thing that came to my mind was Arabia. Falconry is an integral part of the Arabian culture; the Saker falcon was the Prophet Mohammed's favorite bird according to the Holy Qur'an. While researching for Desert Falcon, I chanced upon a female German veterinarian who leads a falcon clinic in Abu Dhabi, I think, and I knew immediately this was the place for Hunter. I thought about making him a veterinarian, but as it happens often with my characters, he put his foot down and refused, and thus became an ornithologist.
Sarah: He’s a strong character- very powerful and quite believable that he would put his foot down with you!
Feliz: As for my personal experience with this region of the world - no, I've never been there, although I'd really, really love to some day. Ever heard about Karl May? He was a German novelist in the late 18 hundreds, incredibly prolific (he wrote almost 80 full novels and countless short stories). He wrote "travel reports", pretending he'd actually been to all the places he described; his books were pure fiction but so accurate some of his fans in the 1950 could actually use them as travel guides. Many of those books are set in the Middle East. I grew up with them, read them over and over, immersed myself in his worlds. A decade later, I met a friend, a Persian (he never said Iranian!) whose parents had fled with the Shah. Through him I gained deeper insight into this culture, which I've come to deeply respect and love since.
Sarah: And Karl May did all that without the internet! He must have been a great reader. I have been a big fan of Persian poetry, which is intensely romantic.  I read on your blog that you’ve lived all over the world. What were some of your favorite places? What do you particularly like about travelling and moving?
Sundown in Brittany
Feliz: Persian poetry is fantastic! I always regret that I never learned Arabic writing, let alone Farsi. Well, I've lived and worked mostly in European countries - Switzerland, France, Denmark, and about ten or twelve different places in Germany. I've traveled all over Europe, though, to Turkey and Australia. What's always the best thing about a new place is getting to know it, getting familiar with different people. A new place is full of immense opportunities, for everything - making new friends, learning something new, exploring new locations, habits, foods. My favorite places? Brittany, I think, especially Saint Malo and the Mount St. Michel. Such beauty! Brisbane - I didn't want to leave.  Mannheim  - a down to earth, cosmopolitic city that grounded me in a way no other place did.
Sarah: The main characters, Hunter and Hamid, are both falconers. What do falconers do? How did you get interested in falcons?
Feliz: I met my first falcon at a birdwatch show when I was little, and I was hooked immediately. I never got round to have a falcon of my own, but there's a professional falconer in my neighborhood who I can go hawking with, which I usually do once or twice a month in winter season.
Basically, Falconry is a way of hunting with tamed birds of prey. In the middle age, falconry was very common everywhere in the world; at times, even peasants got to hunt for fowl or rabbits with trained hawks. Modern falconers are mostly environmentalists, but falconry has a lot of uses even today, far beyond falconry shows or education. For example, falcons are used for biological pest control, keeping buildings free of doves, parks free of rabbits - and airport runways free of nuisance birds.
Lanner Falcon
What do falconers do? Don't get me started! Caring for the birds, keeping them clean, healthy and entertained is almost a full-time job. The reward, of course, is having a companion who's with you all of her free will. They aren't pets at all, they always remain wild. Feeling a falcon's deadly claws on your wrist, and watching her fly - it's a feeling beyond description when she comes back to you although she doesn't need to.
Sarah: Is Desert Falcon your first story? What are your plans for your writing?  Are you working on something now?
Feliz: Desert Falcon was the first story I had the nerve to publish, but it's not my first story - I've got about a dozen tales sitting on my hard drive that better never, ever see the light.
Actually, Hunter is one of the two main characters in my first "real" novel, City Falcon, which is unpublished as of now (yet, I hope - I've submitted it for publication only recently). Desert Falcon is Hunter's backstory, which turned into a Bittersweet Dreams short story almost on its own volition. As I said, Hunter is a rather strong - willed character; he quasi dictated his story to me during a single weekend, and I had to make very little alterations once I had written it down. 
I'm currently working on the sequel to City Falcon (Hunter isn't quite done with me, for which I'm deeply grateful), which I've almost finished outlining.
Sarah: I’ve had a few characters like that- they just have some things to say, and I’m their scribe!
Feliz: I have another unrelated project, a story about a gay horseracing jockey, which I hope to finish sometime this summer.
Sarah: That sounds interesting. I was a big fan of Dick Francis when I was younger. I loved that whole world of horse racing. This book is short. Do you have a particular fondness for short v. novel length fiction?  What are your thoughts on this?
Feliz: I don't have any preferences in regard to story length. Generally when I start writing something I have a vague notion what it's going to be, but I must admit, I never know for sure until the outline is done. I don't consciously plan to write a novel, a novella or a short story - the story lasts until it's told.
Sarah: Tell me about you as a reader. Ebook vs paper? Any childhood favorites? What’s on your TBR pile right now?
Feliz: Oh, reading. Since I'm a voracious reader, I have bookshelves everywhere, my home office, my bedroom, the hallway, even the bathroom, all overflowing with books. Afraid to be buried alive under a bookalanche, my man applied the emergency brakes on my book addiction last year by giving me a Sony reader for my birthday. Which he bitterly regrets by now, though, since I haven't let it out of my reach ever since.
This is my chatty way of saying I've turned to almost exclusively reading ebooks recently, although I still buy and read the odd print book on occasion. On my TBR is Eden Winter's Settling the Score, Rick R. Reed's How I Met My Man, Kris Jacen's Wishing on a Blue Star, Ariel Tachna's Alliance in Blood and about a dozen others. It grows constantly *sigh*
As for childhood favorites: see above. My all - time favorites are Bengtsson's The Long Ships and Kipling's Kim.  
Sarah: I love Kipling, too, and because of him, I have an unrequited love of India. Like your guy Karl May, I love reading stories where the setting takes me to a place I haven’t been before.  It’s so easy for us these days to travel to new places via books- and for us writers, to research a new place well enough we can smell it and taste it. When I’m writing about a new place, I always try to make their cooking at home- so the house smells right while I’m writing. Though I never mastered New Orleans pralines and shrimp. New Orleans may have too many layers! You have a couple of dogs at home. Will you tell us about them?
Feliz: They're the joy of my heart. Sherry, the girl, is seven now, and Filou, the boy, is two. 
They're real clowns, cute, stubborn and hoggish. They get my backside off the computer chair and make me laugh, and there's no other creature that can love quite like they do. No matter how hard my day was, when I come home in the evening and they greet me with that unconditional, exuberant happiness - it's catching, comforting and incredibly beautiful. It's a pity I can't take them when I ride my motorbike!
Desert Falcon, available now from Dreamspinner!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Catalyst

CatalystCatalyst by S.L. Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very intense read, unputdownable for a big part of it. The blood play evened out a bit in the end, but never the BDSm theme, so the faint at heart among you beware! This isn't for everyone, neither for the BDSM nor for the heavy psychological exploration that occurs as Logan and Kasper slowly come to know each other, and equally slowly come to realize that there's no need to be afraid or ashamed of who or what either of them is. Happiness and fulfillment comes in may colors, and theirs just happens to be red and black. An enthralling, at times disturbing but ultimately highly satisfying read about finding love through acceptance and respect.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today 's the Day

It's happening, it's actually happening -

as of today, my first published Story Desert Falcon will be available from Dreamspinner Press.

The Falcon Is Rising - may he soar high! 

Befitting the occasion, Desert Falcon is also a free book giveaway at reviewsbyjessewave this week. Drop by and check it out!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Short Story - All is Fair in Love and War

 This is a little piece of folly I came up with one day. Completely and utterly JUST for fun, here's to you: