Tammy Jo is Back – Return of Southern Witch Series

I still get a lot of press releases, newsletters and announcements of upcoming books, but I don’t usually post about them. Maybe I should, especially when I find them interesting, like now.

A few years back I reviewed Would-Be Witch by Kimberley Frost, and the sequel, Barely Bewitched. The author went dark for a while, but she has apparently been busy. Another book, Halfway Hexed, came out without my noticing. And now, the publisher is re-releasing the entire series as mass-market paperbacks, along with the fourth book Slightly Spellbound They are coming out over the next two years.

What do you think of these covers?

wouldbewitch_new-150x242 barelybewitched_new-150x242

halfwayhexed_new-150x242 slightlyspellbound-150x242

Recent Research – Zillow and Google Earth

As you may already know, the main setting for East of Yesterday is in the  early 1920s, St. Augustine, Florida.

Today, I really wanted to nail down the area of town in which a certain person lives. My requirements were that the the neighborhood had to be modest during the 20s, with older houses (for back then) and small lots. And, of course, the neighborhood had to exist.

St. Augustine 1914 MapSo I called up my long-bookmarked scrollable, zoomable map of St. Augustine in 1914. And I pulled up Google Maps and zoomed it in as well. And I started strolling down the streets courtesy of Street View, checking out streets.

Many of the streets I discarded as too prosperous. One street looked perfect–Hope Street. The houses were just the style I was looking for. So I decided that I needed more info–the kind of info that comes from property data. So I brought up Zillow, I punched in Hope Street, St. Augustine*, and started pulling up houses.

They were all built in 1925. Well, maybe there were a few that weren’t, but all the ones I clicked were. I don’t know what was there before 1925–other than the street itself, which is on my historical map–but I figured it was a good bet that there were no houses there. So I moved on.

Eventually, after chasing down some streets that turned out to be unnamed on my map, or streets that exist now, but didn’t exist then, I settled on Pine Street. It is on the edge of a field that borders the Matanzas River. (The street is not, itself, riverfront property, and the field is likely swamp) Some of the houses are modern, but others were built in 1900 and earlier. Which is perfect.

So this was my procedure:

  1. Find likely street on historical map.
  2. Look up street on Google Maps. All of the streets I looked at still exist today. (During the course of this research, I have found that very few streets ever are actually destroyed.) Juxtaposition if necessary, in the case of renamed streets.
  3. Verify that the street has houses on it. It is entirely possible that some of the houseless streets had houses once upon a time, but if I couldn’t verify it, I moved on.
  4. Take a stroll down the street using Google Street View. Are the houses too big? Is the street too wide? In one case, the street turned out to be an alley, and I saw some rather intrusive photos into people’s back yards.
  5. If all looks good, bring up the street on Zillow, and start pulling up property information. Confirm that the house was built before 1910.

My next step is to take a drive down Pine Street in real life. Since, according to modern mapping software,  there still is a field across the street, it somewhat confirms my suspicion that it is swampland, but I want to confirm that. I also need to drive down Bridge Street, which is where my protagonists live. The last time I took a history trip through St. Augustine, we drove down ML King Avenue, which was Central Avenue in the 20s, which, in the story, causes all kinds of fun confusion.

That’s sure to result in a road trip post.

* Updated to add Zillow link because they–the Zillow people–asked so nicely.

An Interesting Life

I tweeted recently that my life has been rather too interesting lately:

So what’s been going on? Some things are just too sad to write about, but this past week, we had some more interesting interesting stuff going on. When it’s all over–maybe by the weekend–I’ll tell you about it. Hint: it involves police.

And that’s just one of the reasons why things have been quiet around here recently.

(No … I must be honest. it’s not a reason. It’s an excuse. Life is the reason.)

If you’ve been reading The Deed of Paksenarrion with me, join in the comments on the next post down. The conversation is springing back up again.

The Deed Reread – Umpteenth First Impression

20130725-211203.jpgI am up to Chapter Seven of my The Deed of Paksenarrion reread. I was unable to read as quickly as I hoped, mostly due to a typically busy weekend. The next few weeks should be calmer.

After reading these seven chapters, I was suffering some serious eyestrain. The omnibus edition that I had (my second, purchased and read a few years ago) squeezes every square millimeter it can out of each page, so the font is maybe 9 point. Guys, these eyes ain’t young anymore. Presbyopia is probably the worst thing about middle age. Wrinkles? Aches and pains? No problem. Old eyes that don’t focus on small fonts anymore? Suckage. When I first read this book, way back in the misty past when the omnibus first became available, I didn’t even notice the font size. Not anymore.

Therefore, I checked out Amazon to see if Deed was available for Kindle. Lots of older books aren’t. Happily, it was–the entire omnibus was 8.99. I had 22 dollars left on a gift card so it was a no-brainer.

This is my third copy of this book.

So anyway, if you’ve read the book, I have a few questions and observations.

What is your opinion of Moon’s writing strengths with this, her first novel?

I think her strength was definitely point of view. In the first pages of the first chapter, we are behind the eyes of Paks’s father, Dorthan. Then, when Paks takes up a sword to defy him, we get a glimpse of her stubborn spirit. In the next instant, she runs out the door and from that moment, we are with her. Later, when Paks first puts on her recruit tunic, she is acutely aware of her bare legs in front of the entire platoon. And even later, when she must strip in front of the entire company, you can feel her humiliation.

What about her weaknesses?

As for her weaknesses, for me, it was scene transitions. I had trouble with this throughout the series, especially when she is switching from Paks’s point of view, which does not happen very often. The beginning of Chapter 3, when Paks goes from being a top recruit to being locked up in the dungeon, is bewildering. It is probably meant to be that way, but I ended up paging back through the book to see if I missed anything. This is a pattern that kept up throughout the entire series.

What is your opinion of the secondary characters?

Secondary characters are very much in second place in this series. The book is about Paks, and even though she makes friends readily, none of them feel fully fleshed out. Vic is my favorite, the son of minstrels, yet he cannot sing. However, he is never more than a tertiary character. The true secondary characters — Stammel, Saben, Barra and later, Canna and the Duke — get more depth, but still, I wished I could have known these characters better–especially the one who later becomes a villain.

And what did you think of Paks?

To be honest, the first time I read this story, I struggled through the first book, mostly because of the sheer quantity of the battles. But it was my reader connection to Paks that kept me going. In the second book, all struggles disappeared because it then truly becomes The Adventures of Paks. Nowadays, when I reread these books, I don’t have the same trouble that I had the first time around, mostly because I know what is coming, and because it is just so fun to relive the story again.

Now hopefully there are a few of you out there who are ready to discuss this …