By: Zari Reede Publisher: Black Opal Books Publication Date: December 2018 ISBN: 978-1626948075 Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau Review Date: December 3, 2018
Mindy Nichols is an agent of the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance, or “ISMAT.” This secret government agency is charged with protecting Earth from a phenomenon known as “Blinking.” Blinking is an occurrence that connects Earth with the strange world of Ortharos, swapping their inhabitants back and forth with no discernible pattern. It’s 1975, and as New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration is in full swing, Mindy is forced to abandon the festivities when her husband Jim is Blinked away and replaced with one of Ortharos’ otherworldly inhabitants.
Blinked opens with a bang, thrusting readers headfirst into the behind-the-scenes battles taking place between the ISMAT agents and the displaced creatures of Ortharos. Author Zari Reede wastes no time in acquainting the audience with the dramatic battle sequences that carry the rest of the novel forward.
Ortharos is a strange world vastly different from Earth. Populated by creatures the ISMAT agents consider monsters with a lack of any sentience, Reede guides the audience through a large cast of different species and relationships. She draws from mythology and fairy tale lore, including all kinds of creatures, from dwarves to fearsome cyclops.
With four different narrators, keeping character voices distinct and individually engaging can be a challenge. Reede successfully offers a unique voice each time she shifts to a new point of view, keeping each chapter refreshing and exciting. There are times when this skill falls short, however. One of the four narrators, a resident of Ortharos named Winnalea, speaks in an older form of English. It’s well-written and makes her chapters more interesting, but most of her chapters are used to provide short summaries of story events rather than move the plot along. There are a few other places where this happens with other narrators, but Winnalea’s chapters are the only ones that are almost exclusively summarizations.
There are also several points throughout the novel where actions are over-explained, instead of allowing the reader to infer. It makes the prose awkward at times, slowing down the pace of the story and hanging up action-heavy scenes like battles or chases to explain minute details that can often be left unsaid. Other times, the tone of the prose comes off as overly casual and very passive. Zari Reede leaves little to the imagination of the audience. It’s an interesting stylistic choice that may intrigue some readers while turning others away.
Blinked is a charmingly weird novel. Taking a place like New Orleans, rich in history, during such an iconic time of year as Mardi Gras, and seamlessly weaving a second, secret world into its history makes for an entertaining journey for readers. It ends with a bang, reminiscent of the high-energy, edge-of-your-seat battle with which the story began.
Quill says: Blinked is a fun, light read that is perfect for any reader who likes a little humor with their fantasy.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Ann Crawford, author of Fresh off the Starship
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
CRAWFORD: I love to say that I'm a high-flying, deep-diving, world-traveling, life-loving author. All of those adjectives are things I do literally -- as a pilot (student for now) and scuba diver; I've been to all 50 states and 65 countries and counting; and life lover? Well, that just came with this body, LOL, although there certainly have been periods of my life (death of a loved one, divorce) where I've had to work on it.
I used to list where I live, but now I just say, "Oh, all over." I've lived from one shining sea to the other shining sea to the prairie and then to the mountain. (Yes, I'm definitely mixing up our patriotic songs here.) That prairie part includes Kansas for a few years--which was needed to write my latest book. Right now my husband and I live with a view of Colorado's Rocky Mountains out the window.
I believe in love at first sight, that good always prevails, and that we're here for those wildwonderfulwayoutthere visions of ours to come alive.
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?
CRAWFORD: I've enjoyed writing since I could first hold a pencil. As I was growing up, my mother was extremely ill, but she would read to me and those were among the most precious times of my early years. She always wanted to write, but died before she could accomplish that.
Even as a youngster, I always figured I'd write books to give another child that same sense of connection....although it took many, many years to really get the books rolling. My first book was picked up by a publisher in 2001 , and my writing has picked up steam so much that I've published 3 books in the last 18 months.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
CRAWFORD: My books are very hard to categorize --they're women's fiction, inspirational/uplifting, funny (mostly...the one about the witch hunts not so much), a love story and with a little science fiction/fantasy thrown in, too. Fresh off the Starship falls into all of these categories, as well.
Ever wonder what it's like to wake up as a newly minted but fully grown human? It can be as challenging as it is delighting. Imagine the joy of a very first shower or Starbucks Caramel Macchiato...and it was VERY fun writing those as brand-new experiences.
Here's a brief synopsis: A starbeing catapulted across the universe to Washington, D.C., but at the last second got diverted to...Kansas! Determined to still be a positive influence, she quickly learns how to live in this very strange and foreign land. With as many laugh-out-loud moments as there are deep, philosophical ones, readers will certainly enjoy the journey, including falling in love.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or …?
CRAWFORD: My books start writing themselves in my head before I ever start typing them. I speak notes into my iPhone for a bit. Then when the story is bursting at the seams, I sit down at a specific time every day and write the book.
Since my books are coming so fast and furious these years (for me, anyway), I do have to take some downtime between books. But then they start knocking on the door (inside my head) and the stories come.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or …?
CRAWFORD: The plot lines and especially the conversations are always the easiest to write. For me the hardest part is descriptions of the land, scenery, surroundings, and sometimes the rooms the characters are in. The first line usually comes to me long before I start writing the book; the last line comes by the time the characters (and I) have arrived there.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
CRAWFORD: I love Dan Brown and Kathleen McGowan, with their twists on what's been accepted as history as well as the current status quo. Jean Houston is one of my sheros. I had the opportunity to work with Barbara Marx Hubbard when I was much younger, and it was like she picked me up by the scruff of the neck and lifted me up to a whole new level, saying, "You're going to live way up here now." I'm so grateful.
FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?
CRAWFORD: Always! They are my biggest cheerleaders. They love my writing and are always eager to see what I'm going to come up with next. My readers often say that their least favorite part of my books is when they end, and this one is no exception.
FQ: Did the story change as you wrote the book?
CRAWFORD: The story always changes as the book is written. My writing often surprises me. I mentioned that in a screenwriting class once, and the professor said, "You mean as if to say, 'I can't believe I just wrote that?'" Well......yes! LOL
The characters sometimes blurt out things that weren't in my head. A fun twist will suddenly emerge with no warning. Something comes at the end that makes me have to rewrite some of the middle.
I understand that Alfred Hitchcock storyboarded every shot of his movies. I know writing books and film-making can be very different, but I'm the exact opposite of his process.
FQ: Tell us about your favorite character and why that person is your favorite.
CRAWFORD: Missy, my starbeing, was such a fun character to write about. Just about anything is possible with and for her. She's so open-minded and curious. She's so wise and yet everything on Earth was new to her. Having her learn about the beauty of life here--and especially love--well, it was about the most fun I've ever had in all of my writing.
FQ: Was it important to you to have a plot that would keep readers guessing about the outcome?
CRAWFORD: Yes, as always! I love surprise endings.
For more information on Fresh off the Starship, please visit the author's website at: www.anncrawford.net