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review 2018-04-01 00:38
The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake (Living Forest #7)
The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake (Living Forest Series, Volume 7) - Sam Campbell

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the world’s greatest natural features and living in and around it are numerous species that add to its wonder, especially when you are a naturalist.  The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake is the seventh book of Sam Campbell’s Living Forest book series in which Sam, his wife Giny, and friends both new and old have interactions with animals both at the Sanctuary of Wegimind and the Grand Canyon.

 

The Campbells begin the book making a sincere pledge to one another not take in any baby animals, but then a trapper family sends them a letter asking for help.  That help turned out to be taking in fawn named Zipper, then a few days later it was taking in Zowie a baby fox from the same family, next was an puppy abandoned right in front of them that they named Zanie, next was a baby skunk named Zinnia they saved from some dogs, and finally were seven beavers—the titular secrets—they hid in a secluded lake.  The Campbells found themselves in a dilemma as they planned to go to the Grand Canyon to take film and pictures of animals around the natural wonder; luckily they were able to get their young friends Hi-Bub and Tony come to spend the summer at the Sanctuary freeing them to head to Arizona.  While the Campbells are around the Grand Canyon they made friends with a Hopi named John Corn and his son Kona, who are instrumental in helping them get film and pictures of animals, when Sam remembers to take the lens off the camera.  Meanwhile the boys sends numerous letters giving details about what was happening around the Sanctuary including interactions with one of the members of the trapper family—Bill—that make the Campbells nervous about the relocated beavers.  Returning to the Sanctuary, the Campbells find the boys in good spirits and the beavers safe, and later learn that Bill had learned of the beavers and informed Sam so he could keep an eye on them as he’s rejoining the army thus making Sam change his impression of the man.

 

The book was as long as the previous few books in the Living Forest series at 236 pages, but this one was stylistically different.  While Campbell’s own words featured the activities that he was a part of, the letters by Hi-Bub and Tony were quoted verbatim thus adding new voices for a non-insubstantial portion of the text while the Campbells were in Arizona.  While animals were the main focus of the book, there were some important human issues that were faced with John and Kona missing their wife/mother, Hi-Bub struggling to find himself, and Bill’s own personal change of attitude towards animals.  There is some classical Campbell philosophy, especially when it concerned Hi-Bub, but the focus on the book was nature and adventure.

 

The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake is another wonderful book by Sam Campbell that not only features animal and human antics and adventures in the Sanctuary but also the Grand Canyon.  If you’ve enjoyed other books of the Living Forest series, you’ll also enjoy this book.

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text 2018-03-25 08:27
Book Awards - To compete or not to compete?

To compete or not to compete?

 

Does entering writing competitions achieve anything other than deplete your bank account and inflate others?

 

Maybe - for the few who win, place or show.

 

Last year I researched contests, this year I'm entering them.

 

Why?

 

My writing career is going nowhere and doing the same things and expecting different results is a definition of insanity, right? So to delay that diagnosis last year I sent East Van Saturday Night - five short stories and a novella to maybe a dozen traditional Canadian publishers hoping they could take some of that grant money they get from the federal government and publish my book. Indie authors get no respect, and in most cases don't deserve any, but traditionally published authors get it whether they deserve it or not.

 

Most didn't even bother to reply, a few sent generic rejections and one, Thistledown Press, actually wrote a letter saying "while your writing is fresh, visceral and intuitively captures the rawness of youth and the dark energy of East Van, we do not have an audience presently to support such work."

 

Nice, but no cigar.

 

This year I'm thinking some recognition from a notable contest might generate some interest among readers and publishers. At the very least I could use the phrase "award winning" or "shortlisted" to stimulate my webpage and social media sites.

 

I began by submitting The Death You Choose, a story about a senior who realizes he has dementia and decides to take his own life rather than be relegated to the living dead, to Writer's Digests' Short Short Story contest in January.

 

The fee was $30 and the submission was an online so no additional costs were incurred.

I can't find out who won, but obviously it wasn't me, however, the fee might have been worth the exercise in editing a story about four times too long down to the required 1500 words.

 

Next I entered The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Prism, a literary publication put out by The Creative Writing Program of the University of British Columbia.

 

I was ambivalent about this submission because I feel there's an inherent bias in favour of submissions from fellow academics, and that's not me. I mean how would it look if someone without a degree in Creative Writing won a contest sponsored by a Creative Writing Department?

 

However, they kept extending the deadline which I interpreted as they were light on submissions, which means my work might have a better chance. Publication in literary magazines can fast track a career. I know it's hard to believe, but in Canada it's true.

So I sent in East Van Saturday Night and the Paper Shack, two short stories from the anthology that traditional publishers have all but given up on.

 

Why two? The entry fee for one was $35, and only an additional five bucks for a second one. Again, an online submission so no additional costs.

 

Results are pending.

 

I chose my novel Abandoned Dreams to submit to the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards in the category of literary fiction. Here's where it starts to get expensive and that question about sanity begins to arise again.

 

Submission fee is $99.00 CA plus you have to send a paperback so add $20 for the cost of the book and shipping.

 

The submission process was the same for The National Indie Excellence Awards to which I submitted a paperback edition of Mad Maggie.

 

By the middle of April I plan to submit Forest to The Book Pipeline Competition which seeks material for film or television adaptation. They want approximately the first 5,000 words and full synopsis (1-3 pages). I think a good movie about Sasquatches is long overdue, don't you?

 

And once I finish this blog I'm going to submit The Big Picture to the 2018 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Contest to get their early bird discount of $89 USD. I'm entering this competition primarily because I like that "all entrants receive a mini-critique which will provide ratings on five key literary areas: appearance, plot, development, formatting and marketability."

 

If you lose, at least they tell you why?

 

As the year progresses I might even enter more contests - until I run out of money, or go back on my meds.

 

Want to preview the books I've entered? Go to my Amazon Author Page at

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Readers' Favorite Annual Book Award Contest

https://readersfavorite.com/annual-book-award-contest.htm

 

The 5th Annual Book Pipeline Competition

https://bookpipeline.com/

 

 

Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

 

30

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review 2018-03-23 22:09
Dora Saves the Enchanted Forest - Sheila Sweeny Higginson,Victoria Miller
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

Cute story with nice illustrations. The book is pretty predictable and repetitive, per classic Dora. I was never really in to Dora, but I thought it was kind of weird that this one is so princess-y. Dora dons a purple dress and matching headband, which seemed to stray from her original shorts and t-shirt. I'm of the opinion that girls can wear whatever they want (dresses included), but this one seemed to be pushing the girly elements a bit much. 

Story-wise, it was entertaining. I really only picked this up from the Little Free Lending Library, because I thought the little girl I work with would enjoy the unicorn pictures.

I do wish that there was a little pronunciation guide or something in the book. I took French for six and half years and know very little Spanish. It's difficult for me to read Spanish, because I often revert to French pronunciation. A phonetic breakdown in the back would have been nice. 

Overall, an okay read. Good for kids who like unicorns. 
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review 2018-03-15 18:06
Forest Born - Shannon Hale

The best character in the series comes at the end - Rinna adds fascinating struggles and a whole new power to the mix, but I may have reached the end of my capacity to marathon Hale's books, as I found this one a bit more of a struggle to get through. Alternately, that could be down to the structure; there's a lot of running around in the woods with less of a traditional story arc and fewer clear stakes. Still, very worth the effort for Hale's trademark insight and nuanced character explorations. It looks like she's focused more on MG/early readers books in recent years, but it would be great to have more classic fairytale-style fantasies!

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text 2018-02-25 04:48
An Interesting Story
The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest - Melanie Dickerson

This was by and large an impulse buy in a set on my Nook because the plots of many of her books sounded interesting, and I'm a sucker for a good fractured fairy tale. While this one isn't a fractured fairy tale in the sense that the source material (Robin Hood) is not a fairy tale, it was still a solid story.

 

I liked the more feminist aspects of this story; a woman who is opinionated, educated, intelligent, and pretty independent in a historical setting is a pretty big deal to me. The setting was rich and very interesting, and the main character, Odette, was relatable in that she was well-meaning, but a lot of her actions had some pretty major consequences and she was pretty naive about much of the world.

 

I didn't realize this author was specifically a Christian fiction author, and normally I don't like the preachy nature the genre often features as an atheist, but I'll make an exception for her works, if they all follow this same pattern. The elements of Christianity in this story was pretty mild and actually made sense to me, since they are in the Holy Roman Empire pre-Reformation. The fact that Odette even studies the Bible under a local priest in secret makes it historically accurate, as does the occasionally sexist behavior exhibited by said priest.

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