Why Do You Write?

“Life is pain, Princess. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

That’s from The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite movies. (Please forgive if I didn’t get it exactly right — I’m quoting from memory.)

The hero says this line to the heroine when they’re at odds, yes, but it’s a romance. There’s a happy ending. Pain and suffering are worth it because the bad experiences lead to the ultimate prize for each character. They’re a kind of dues-paying. So the movie itself undercuts the hero’s assertion: life contains pain, yes, but it’s not identical with pain. In the end, love, friendship, and satisfaction trump suffering.

But real life isn’t like that, is it? Sure, many people find happiness, but some get far more than their share of suffering. Some people — perhaps many people — spend their entire lives desperately needing something they’ll never get. Some people lose everything they love. Some people have experiences that destroy them. Maybe it’s too extreme to say “life is pain” for all of us, but it sure as heck is for some of us, and I bet many of us have dark moments when it feels that way.

And that’s why I write.

I’ve been involved peripherally in the world of writing for many years, now, and since I wrote my first book, I’ve gotten to know quite a few more authors. Thus, I can say with some confidence that people write for many reasons. Some feel they have a story inside them clawing to get out, and they find no peace until they write it down. Some write because they enjoy it, some because they appreciate the challenge. As for me, I write to make recompense for pain.

When I open a book to read, I forget myself, forget my life, forget my problems (piddling as they are, compared to many people’s). Instead I focus on other people’s problems, other people’s pain, other people’s happiness. I may suffer with them, but at least it’s not my suffering. And when they feel joy, so do I.

Some view read reading as a solitary activity. I disagree. I think reading is profoundly social, a turning away from a focus on the self, an engagement with the other. What does it matter that the others inside books aren’t real? They’re real to me, and in their variety, they show me far more worlds than I would ever see if I were restricted to my own day-to-day experiences, which are so limited by the particulars of my life.

That’s reading: a turning away from inwardness that brings a respite from the trials of selfhood, however brief, and tutors us in empathy for people we might otherwise never consider. That’s why I read.

And that’s why I write. Other authors have given me recompense many a time. Now I want to give recompense to others as best I can.

Guest Post by Elizabeth Baxter, Author of The Last Priestess

TheLastPriestessCoverToday The Active Voice is celebrating the release of The Last Priestess, a fantasy novel by author Elizabeth Baxter. Beautiful cover, eh?

There is a name that is uttered only in whispers. The Songmaker. A ruthless rebel mage, he is bringing civil war to the once-peaceful kingdom of Amaury, enveloping all in a tide of violence. For Maegwin, a tormented priestess, the path forward lies in forgiving her temple’s enemies—but she dreams only of revenge. For Rovann, a loyal mage haunted by his failures, salvation might be found in the unthinkable: defying the very king he swore to protect. If they are to succeed they must form an unlikely alliance. For someone must stand against the Songmaker. Someone must save Amaury from his dark designs. But first, they’ll have to learn to trust each other.

And so a magical fantasy of darkness and redemption begins.

Read an excerpt:

Maegwin de Romily woke with a headache on the morning of her execution.

As she roused from dark dreams she became aware of smells first: damp stone, the skitter of rats, the hushed voices of the other prisoners. Then finally, sight. Dawn sunlight fell through the barred window so brightly it brought tears to her eyes and made her head pound like a drum, beating out the rhythm of her heart.

About Elizabeth Baxter:

I’ve been a bookworm since I was five years old. The first book I ever read was about a boy going shopping with his mum. I picked it up from my brother’s bedroom floor and suddenly those strange shapes on the page made sense. I could read! Hallelujah! I was soon working my way steadily through the school library and it wasn’t long before I realised that stories about dragons, elves and great big talking lions were by far the most interesting. And that was it, my obsession with fantasy fiction was born.

I wrote and published my first book when I was six. This was a rip-roaring adventure tale called “The Golden Pheasant,” about, well, a golden pheasant. I wrote out three copies on bits of paper pulled from my school books, bound them in covers made from old cereal boxes, and gave them out to my teachers. And that’s it. I was a writer!

When I’m not writing I enjoy playing tennis (badly), playing the guitar (very badly) and watching cricket whenever I can. I’m also intent on cramming as much world travel as I can into one lifetime. Funny, but my list keeps getting longer. You can never see it all can you?

EBaxterprofilepictureYou can connect with Elizabeth Baxter on her blog, her Amazon author page, Facebook, and Twitter.

Guest Post by Vanna Smythe, Author of Protector

Can Love Bring Back The Natural Balance of Things?

Anniversary of the Veil bannerProtector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book One) is based on twin souls and the energy of love released when they find each other. The belief in twin souls, that is, a soul mate in the form of your one true love, existing somewhere in the world and pulling you towards them relentlessly and ceaselessly, is the underlying theme of Protector and the entire Anniversary of the Veil series. Only, in this world that I created the energy released when two twin souls find each other is used for purposes that are not altogether enjoyable for the pair.

In the world of the Anniversary of the Veil series, Joinings of such strong love, and the energy they release, have been used to build bridges and tall buildings, stem the flow of rivers, even change the duration and force of seasons. One thousand years ago, energy from one such pair was used to separate the world in half by a barrier only a select few can cross. On one side of this barrier, or Veil as it is called, they have continued with the forced Joinings, while on the other side the practice was eradicated. This was achieved mainly through the means of keeping the people ignorant and under the complete control of the Priesthood. The priests rule the realm from the shadows. Among other things, they also decide who can marry whom, so as to prevent any natural Joinings of love from occurring.

Protector takes place at a time when the fate of this barrier must be judged. The decision of whether the Veil should continue to stand, or if it is time to let the world be whole again, must now be made.

Princess Issa is one of a pair, called to her other half, her twin soul. She is ignorant of her true purpose, steered to go along and find her love, not knowing that a Joining waits at the end of her journey. Unbeknown to her, she is loved from a distance by Protector Kae, a soldier assigned as her bodyguard and the one whose role, whose decision, could decide the fate of all.

How long can a world where something as natural as the energy of love is twisted and used for artificial purposes exist? Will love prevail and restore the natural balance of things? What price must be paid? Answers to all these questions and more wait in Decision Maker, Book Two of the Anniversary of the Veil Series, which is already out.

You can follow Vanna on Twitter or Facebook, and visit her website.

Review: Shadow of Time, by Jen Minkman

Shadow of Time (2013)
By Jen Minkman
How did I get this book? The author sent me an advance review copy in exchange for an impartial review.
Available on Amazon.

Disclaimer: Jen Minkman is an online acquaintance of mine; some months ago, she reviewed my first book.

Shadow of Time coverOkay, I’m just going to come right out and say it: Shadow of Time is my favorite paranormal romance ever! What did I like so much about it? Its seriousness.

I don’t mean to make Shadow of Time sound like a bore. It’s not in the least. It’s an involving, well written story with characters I cared about and rooted for at every turn. It’s exciting, with threads of mystery and action/adventure underlying the romance in a stimulating way. It’s also movingly sweet and tender. And the paranormal elements are c-r-e-e-p-y!

No, by “serious” I mean that the book carefully situates its romance plot in Native American history so as to make the characters’ future matter not just to them and their friends/families, but in a bigger way.

When I first realized Shadow of Time‘s hero and heroine were a Native American man and a white American  woman, I was a little worried. I’m not a fan of Native American romance as a subgenre. (Not aware that there is such a subgenre? Oh yes, there very much is. Google it and check out the hundreds of books Goodreads-shelved as “Native American romance.”) Here’s Sherman Alexie lampooning the subgenre:

I was a little Spokane Indian boy who read every book and saw every movie about Indians, no matter how terrible.

I’d read those historical romance novels about the steroidal Indian warrior ravaging the virginal white schoolteacher.

I can still see the cover art.

The handsome, blue-eyed warrior (the Indians in romance novels are always blue-eyed because half-breeds are somehow sexier than full-blooded Indians) would be nuzzling (the Indians in romance novels are always performing acts that are described in animalistic terms) the impossibly pale neck of a white woman as she reared her head back in primitive ecstasy (the Indians in romance novels always inspire white women to commit acts of primitive ecstasy). (quoted from “I Hated Tonto (Still Do)”)

That pretty much says it all. So, I thought, is Shadow of Time going to be one of these? That would suck.

Well, it’s not. Not in the least. I don’t want to go into too many details, because they’d be spoilers, but I will say this much: Minkman has done her research. Serious, in-depth research into Navajo language, mythology, place, and history. The romance she’s crafted is inextricably woven through with the tragedy, bravery, resistance, survival, and present-day life of the Navajo people. The Native Americans in Shadow of Time are not exoticized. They’re normal people trying to lead normal lives in the complicated junction where Native American culture meets the steamrolling force of white America.

That’s what I mean by “serious.” This is a book that combines the joyful escapism of the romance plot with some serious historical heft. It’s satisfying on multiple levels at once. What a treat. I loved it.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. It’s appropriate for adults and young adults, including (I think) readers on the younger end of the young-adult spectrum.

Guest Post: How to Crack the Market in Your Own Country, by Jen Minkman

Shadow of Time book blog bannerI have been writing paranormal romance for almost three years now. When I first learned about the genre, it was through Stephenie Meyer’s books, which were a huge hit in Europe at the time, my own country, the Netherlands, included. Inspired by the storytelling and sheer scope of possibilities within the genre, I started writing my own book. The story was called Shadow of Time and it was a paranormal romance set in Navajo Nation, heavily influenced by Native American spirituality, mythology, and history. I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done yet, and in a sense, I was already doing that by writing in this genre — I was (to my knowledge) the first writer of the genre in the whole of Holland. So when I sent out the manuscript to several publishing houses, I more or less hoped they would jump at the chance to publish something in this bestselling genre which was written by one of their compatriots.

minkman_author-picI was wrong. Rejection after rejection found its way to my mailbox, and most of those rejection letters weren’t even saying I couldn’t write — they just said they couldn’t sufficiently market my book. Slowly, it started to dawn on me: why would publishers invest in a nobody like me when it was so much easier to acquire translation rights for a bestselling book from the U.S. or the UK? Goodbye, Jen Minkman, hello L. J. Smith.

Stubborn as I am, I just wouldn’t give up, though. I started sending my manuscript to publishers known for their publications of original Dutch and Belgian work. And the hard work paid off: in the summer of 2011, I found a small independent publisher who liked my manuscript enough to publish it. However, I had to take a detour. Since Ellessy Publications hadn’t published any paranormal romance books yet, they asked me to write a ‘normal’ romance first, in order to prepare their market segment for me and my work. I wrote a chicklit in one summer, and Back to School! (set in a Dutch high school in The Hague) saw the light of day in September 2012. My first book (which would be my second published book) is scheduled to follow later this year, in September 2013.

Shadow of Time coverIn the meantime, it had occurred to me that translating my own book into English might prove lucrative. At the very least, it would reach far more people than just the 23 million Dutch-speaking people in Holland and Belgium. So I took it upon me to re-write and translate my book into English (I come from a family of English teachers and am a teacher of the language myself) and asked a freelance editor from the U.S. to have a thorough look at it.

This is why the book is already available in English, but not yet in my native tongue. It turns out self-publication works a lot faster, despite all the hard work it took me to prepare the book for its international appearance.

The upside? I am already getting very good reviews for Shadow of Time, and this makes me more confident the book will sell well in my own country as well.

The downside? I feel like foreign readers will probably appreciate me and my books more than the people from my own country ever will, and that somehow saddens me. Who knows, though? They might learn about the title because of rave reviews abroad!

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and the 70% Royalty

I’ve read a few recent articles that make things sound pretty damn ominous for Barnes & Noble. The company’s been closing storefronts all over the country, so perhaps it’s no surprise that revenue from that segment was down almost 11 percent in the last quarter of 2012. What’s more surprising is that the Nook segment’s revenues were down over the holidays as well — by 12.6 percent. (These numbers are drawn from the article in Publishers Weekly.) It sounds as though the Nook is not competing all that well, at this point.

The closure of B&N would be a bummer for many readers. The majority of people still prefer paper books, and many people enjoy shopping for them in bookstores (though perhaps quite a few of them actually buy the books they’ve found through Amazon). I myself love browsing in B&N. I’ve always loved the big-box bookstores. Even back in the 1990s, I wasn’t one to think they were wicked for driving indie bookstores out of existence. I was too busy being excited about the ability to walk into a bookstore and walk out ten minutes later with exactly what I wanted — Book 5 out of eight in a fantasy series, a piece of literary theory, an obscure magazine, a map of a foreign country, whatever — instead of having to special-order it. That was what made the big stores attractive to me: selection, selection, selection. And they let you drink coffee around their merchandise. That was nice.

Then along came Amazon and put everyone else’s selection to shame; as you might expect, that’s where most of my book-shopping dollars began to go, especially after I moved to a small, rural town and signed up for Prime. Poor B&N.

But when I take off my reader hat and think like an author, I find B&N’s position not just sad but alarming. Here’s the thing: Amazon has recently opened virtual storefronts in Brazil, Japan, and India that do not permit authors to receive the normal 70 percent royalty on books unless they’re enrolled in the exclusive KDP Select program. (Books enrolled in Select may not be sold or given away in electronic form through any other site or vendor.) Amazon has not made membership in Select a precondition for the 70 percent royalty in the U.S., Canadian, or European stores. In those stores, any book priced between $2.99 and $9.99  is eligible for the 70 percent royalty.

But if Amazon’s largest epublishing competitor founders, who will provide pressure to keep royalties up? I’ve read that Amazon is currently pursuing the holy grail of same-day deliveries to major metro areas. To pull that off, it’ll need more major new distribution centers. That’s expensive. Really expensive. And Amazon has always operated with a tiny profit margin.

I can think of one place where huge profit margins are available. Ebooks. Sure, Amazon has some costs in running the KDP publishing platform. It’s a good platform, so it must’ve cost a chunk to develop it. KDP provides has pretty good customer service for its authors. And I’m sure it needs a whole bunch of servers and so forth. But surely the costs don’t compare to those incurred by traditional publishers, which provide editing and design and distribution of a physical product. Not to mention remaindering. If Amazon begins to pay royalties on ebooks similar to those paid by traditional publishers, a whole lot more of that income will represent profit.

As part of the general entity of “authors publishing on Amazon,” I suddenly feel a bit like a goose with a golden egg in my nest. (Well, my personal nest has something more like a brass gumball in it, but there are thousands of indie authors out there who sell a shitload of books.) Amazon’s too smart to kill its layers. But it could well take a much bigger bite of each egg. A 65 percent bite, to be exact. We’re already feeling that bite in three storefronts. It’s hard to believe Amazon wouldn’t like to impose it universally.

That’s why the possible loss of B&N alarms me so deeply. Amazon is an amazing company, but it’s already dominant enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. Once it becomes the only mass distribution point for paper books other than super-sellers, that dominance will progress from heebie-jeebie territory to the land of shaking-like-a-bowl-of-Jell-O. If the Nook goes under along with the brick-and-mortar stores … well … I can’t come up with an adequately quivery metaphor. It’s scary.

We call ourselves “independent” authors, but we’re only independent in some senses. In many others, we’re highly dependent. By and large, Amazon is what we’re dependent on. With every alternative publishing venue that proves unable to compete with Amazon, that dependence grows. It’s not a good feeling.

So come on B&N! Come on Nook!

(Of course, what do I own? Two Kindles. Sigh.)

Review: Vampire Underground: Rescue, by Anthea Kage

Vampire Underground: Rescue (Book 1) (2012)
By Anthea Kage
How did I get this book? I downloaded it when it was available for free on Amazon.
Available on Amazon.

Vampire_underground_rescueThis book is a lot of fun. A steamy paranormal romance novella, Vampire Underground: Rescue does a great job balancing hotness, story, and world-building. The result is a satisfying romp.

Tess seems to be your everyday office girl, but by night she’s something else entirely. Her day job at the Vampire Disposal Agency is merely an opportunity to gather information for the opposing side — the vampire rescue movement, which is dedicated to saving vampires from execution at the hands of the government, which has wrongly convinced most of the population that vamps are too dangerous to be allowed to live.

Author Anthea Kage draws on strands of recent American history and culture, including the initial hysterical reaction to the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s and homophobic parents’ rejection of their gay children, in constructing this novella’s world. She does a nice job of it. The vampires’ persecutors run the gamut from the grossly prejudiced and vicious to the virtuous but misinformed to the willfully blind. The vampires, far from the dangerous blood-suckers of much urban fantasy, are hounded and frightened young people much in need of help. Though vampires here stand in for a real-life persecuted group, the underlying seriousness of the message comes through.

Kage balances this nice set-up with some good characters: Tess, wrapped up in her rescue activities due to her own personal history, has gone too long without physical companionship. When her day job and her real job put her in close proximity to two very different (and, of course, very attractive) males, she finds herself unable to resist. Some hot, fun sex ensues. These portions of the book are a blast.

What Kage has pulled off, here, can’t have been easy to do. The book’s set-up, and the is-there-a-mole-in-the-organization? plot that runs through it, are serious stuff, but the erotic and romance elements are relatively light-hearted. Tess isn’t angsty; she’s not plagued by self-doubt. She doesn’t moon over things. Yet the book’s serious and exuberant elements don’t clash. Instead, there’s enough substance to hold one’s mind and enough titillation to satisfy one’s … well, you know. Non-mind.

Definitely recommended! The book’s sequel, Vampire Underground: Resistance, is available as well. I’ll certainly be picking it up!

Evil Dragons and Other Wicked Creatures of the Enchanted Bookstore Legends: A Guest Post by Marsha A. Moore

Marsha Moore’s Enchanted Bookstore Legends series is particularly appealing to me at the moment because I’ve spent the last few months working through the idea of dragons for my own series. I’ve discovered that dragons are surprisingly complicated! I found myself wrestling with all sort of insolvable conundrums. For instance, I spent several weeks pondering wings. If dragons have wings, what skeletal structure do the wings attach to inside their bodies? Annoyingly, we don’t seem to have any real-life six-limbed reptiles to work with as models. I spent a ridiculous amount of time obsessing over what’s actually a fairly silly question. (I mean … they’re magic, right? If they have wings, they have wings ’cause they’re magic.) So then … retractable claws, like a lion, or fixed claws, like an eagle or a crocodile? (You can see how hung up I got on minutia.)

Given my own struggles with writing about dragons, I’m ever so interested in how other authors handle the species. Without further ado, here’s Marsha to tell us about the dragons and related nasties of her fantasy romance series:

Evil Dragons and Other Wicked Creatures of the Enchanted Bookstore Legends

Dragon lovers will not be disappointed with the Enchanted Bookstore Legends, my epic fantasy romance. I love dragons and have included many types, ages, and sizes. When my heroine, Adalyra McCauley opens an enchanted book she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save Dragonspeir from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. In Lost Volumes, the third book of the series, Lyra learns residents of Dragonspeir’s Alliance are suffering with a deadly plague at the hands of the Black Dragon. She doesn’t heed the warnings of her fiancé, wizard Cullen Drake, to remain safe in her human world. After all, she’s the present Scribe — one of five strong women in her ancestry who possessed unique magic, each destined to protect the Alliance against the evil Black Dragon of the Dark Realm. With Cullen dependent upon Alliance power to maintain his immortality, the stakes are doubled for Lyra.

She puts herself at risk for the community afflicted by black magic. To find a cure, she and Cullen travel into the vile, lawless underworld of Terza to strike a bargain with an expert. Their efforts further enrage the Black Dragon, vowing to decimate the Alliance and avenge the murder of his heir.

In order to overpower his efforts, Lyra must secure the three lost volumes of the Book of Dragonspeir. Written by the three earliest Scribes, each book contains energy. Possession of the entire set will enable overthrow of the Dark Realm. Following clues into dangerous lands, Lyra and Cullen seek those volumes. His assistants, Kenzo the tiger owl and Noba the pseudodragon, prove invaluable aids. Only if they succeed, will the Alliance be safe and Lyra reach closer to the immortality she needs to live a life with Cullen.

The dragons in my fantasy world of Dragonspeir are either members of the good Alliance, governed by the golden Imperial Dragon and his High Council, or the Dark Realm, led by the Black Dragon. I’ll introduce you to the main evil dragon characters. Some are quite wicked!

Black dragons, like the leader of the Dark Realm, always seek to lair in deep dark caves. Although small, they are vile, evil-tempered, and abusive. Their hearts are as dark as their slimy scales. They are obsessed with death and take comfort in the sickening-sweet aroma of drowned, rotting carcasses. During her bloodswear quest, Lyra held her stomach with the stench when she was required to sneak into the chambers of the heir to the Black Dragon and perform fascination on him. The current Black Dragon leader prefers his drake servants leave the prey they bring him in pools within his personal cave. The victims float for days or weeks before he eats them. The dark leader, like all black dragons, is grim and skeletal. His eyes lie deep in their sockets between two great horns that curve forward and down. The flesh of his face is partially deteriorated or burnt from his acidic drool. His method of attack is spitting caustic acid. Lyra and Cullen, learned too well what that felt like in the first book, Seeking a Scribe.

Numerous types of drakes are the soldiers and scouts of the Dark Realm. Fire and magma drakes attack with burning flames, while the evil ice drakes freeze victims with contact. But the most deadly and wicked drake of all is the cimafa. It’s a black iridescent dragon, small compared to others, but size doesn’t matter. It is a stealth dragon whose aura cannot be detected by any means, not even by magic. If you are lucky enough to hear it, the only warning of its attack may be the chilling screech echoed from its gaping mouth. You will look up and be immobilized by the shadow of its umbra and rings of flame around its eyes. Between its translucent black wings sits a cloaked rider who has made a deal with this evil beast, giving it some of his or her own aura. In return, the beast will share whatever auras it harvests with the rider. Many times, Lyra is chased by a cimafa on her tail, attempting to steal her coveted scribal aura. Those who dared to step between and protect her faced death.

In addition to evil dragons in Dragonspeir, there are other fearsome creatures in the lands Lyra and Cullen visit in order to find the missing volumes of the Book of Dragonspeir. The scorpent in the mysterious, underground world of Terza is dragon-size, half scorpion half serpent beast. They have heads like cobras, mid-sections with jointed appendages, and tails with both a snake rattler and a scorpion stinger. At that gigantic size, those will sure make your teeth chatter!

Be sure to read about how Lyra and Cullen face these dangers in Lost Volumes: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Three.

About the Author

Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Her creativity also spills into watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transforming into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Crazy about cycling, she usually passes the 1,000 mile mark yearly. She is learning kayaking and already addicted. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and that spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at new stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!

You can connect with Marsha at her website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Review: Wheezer and the Painted Frog, by Kitty Sutton

Wheezer and the Painted Frog (Mysteries from the Trail of Tears) (2011)
By Kitty Sutton
How did I get this book? I bought it.
Available on Amazon.

This book is a wonderful find. It’s an involving, well written, well plotted story about a thirteen-year-old Cherokee girl, Sasa, who investigates the mysterious death of her young brother in the barren new settlement to which her tribe has been relegated after walking the Trail of Tears. Sasa teams up with a preternaturally intelligent Jack Russell terrier she rescues and names Wheezer, as well as several older people in her community. She’s also assisted by Wheezer’s original owner (a virtuous young white man named Jackson) and a few others. As the investigation continues, Sasa and her friends uncover a cruel plot to steal funds intended to purchase supplies for the relocated Cherokee, who are facing an approaching winter and have no means of feeding themselves.

The book is a mystery-thriller hybrid: the reader is in on some of the villains’ machinations, but not all of them. It also strikes me as a hybrid between children’s and young-adult fiction. The bad folks are relentlessly wicked, and the good people are without fault, a type of characterization I associate with work intended for young readers. On the other hand, Sasa’s age and maturity, as well as the book’s more graphic descriptions of death and injury, seem aimed at older kids (in the fourteen- to seventeen-year-old age range, I’d say). The cover, in both its shape and sweetly drawn central figure, looks appropriate for a children’s book. Yet other elements, including Sasa’s little brother’s death and the book’s setting in the aftermath of the U.S. government’s genocidal relocation of the southeastern tribes, probably make Wheezer and the Painted Frog inappropriate for young children. Lastly, while much of the book is told from Sasa’s point of view, we also see a lot of material from Jackson’s point of view, and he’s much older — well out of young-adult territory — and has more adult interests.

This generic hybridity strikes me as one of the book’s great strengths. It’s simply not like most of what’s out there. On the other hand, it may also make marketing the book more challenging. We read in a very pigeon-holed way, these days, and readers tend to enforce generic boundaries pretty firmly.

I hope Wheezer and the Painted Frog doesn’t go unread for such reasons because it’s terrific. Sasa is a strong and sympathetic protagonist, and Wheezer is a real charmer. Furthermore, the novel puts Native American history front and center. I bet that’s all too rare a reading experience for the average American teen, and it shouldn’t be.

Sutton has now published the second book in the Trail of Tears Mystery series, Wheezer and the Shy Coyote. I probably won’t get to it for a while — I’m quite behind on my reading and reviewing. But it’s certainly in my TBR piles, and when my daughters are old enough, all the Wheezer books will end up on their reading devices as well.

This review will be cross-posted to Amazon.