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Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review of Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Book 1)



Book Review of Cassie Scot:
ParaNormal Detective (Book 1)
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Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Release Date: May 15, 2013


Blurb : 

 

 Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.



About the Author:


Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. (You can learn more here.)
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children, Drake and Celeste.

Contacts:


Excerpt:

Cassie Scot Blogs

#1

Cassie Scot: Normal Detective
Mini-Story

Last night, I was just about to close up and go home for the day when an old woman walked into my office with a cat carrier. Inside the carrier, a black cat hissed and yowled. I suppose I would have felt that way too, if someone had locked me inside a little cage. I felt instant sympathy for the cat. Not so much for the old lady.

“Cassandra Scot?” she asked.

“Cassie,” I corrected automatically. Only my parents called me Cassandra.

“I knew your grandparents.”

I tried not to groan. My grandparents had been highly respected sorcerers until they died in a lab explosion a few years back. I never knew what they had been working on, but since that day there has been a swirling vortex in the lab.

Don't ask – I really have no idea.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“Miranda Cleaver. Mrs. Cleaver.”

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Cleaver.”

If she heard my sarcastic emphasis on the honorific, she didn't mention it.

“Your grandparents used to set wards in my house to keep the demons out,” Mrs. Cleaver said. “Since they've died, the wards have failed. There are now demons running amuck in my house, and Sylvie – my poor cat – has been possessed by the devil.”

“I... see.” What was I supposed to say? She had just walked past a sign proclaiming, “Cassie Scot: Normal Detective.”

“I read your web site,” Mrs. Cleaver said.

“Really? Did you see my list of services and exemptions?”

“Of course.”

“So what do you need?”

“An exorcism. I told you, Sylvie is possessed by the devil.”

I glanced again at the hissing cat, whose yellow eyes shone with very typical feline anger. “I don't do exorcisms. It was listed under exemptions.”

“But you're Cassandra Scot, aren't you?”

“Cassie.”

“Your parents are Edward ans Sheila Scot?”

“Yes.” I felt my face burning. Just because I had powerful sorcerers for parents, didn't mean I was one as well. Okay, so it wasn't just my parents – it was my grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters. Still, there had to be a second cousin out there somewhere without any magic at all.

Why couldn't people just read the sign?

“Well, then.” She sounded as if the whole matter were settled. She plunked the carrier on my desk and took a vacant chair in front. “I went to your father first. Your grandparents always told me to go to him if I needed anything after they were gone. Your father said you were ideally suited for this sort of work.”

“He did?” My dad wasn't above a practical joke, but this sounded more like something my brother would do. My brother, who looked more like Dad's twin that his son, thanks to Dad's egregious use of youthening potions.

“Nicolas,” I muttered under my breath. “This is war.”

“What's that, dear?”

“Why don't I take a quick look at the cat?”

“Of course, dear.” Mrs. Cleaver clearly had not expected any other result.

I opened the door to the cage, but carefully did not reach my hand inside. The cat stopped hissing. After a moment or two, it poked its nose outside the cage, sniffing the air. Then it stepped outside.

That's when I noticed how very pregnant Sylvie was.

“She needs to see a vet,” I said. “She's going to have kittens.”

“I know. Little demons. It never used to happen when your grandparents were alive.”

“I... see.” I seemed to be saying that a lot. “You know what? I think I'll need to keep her for a few days. I'll call you when she's free of the... demon.”

“You will?” Mrs. Cleaver's eyes shone with relief. Crazy or not, I knew I'd said the right thing. “How much will it cost? I don't have a lot of money.”

“Don't worry about it.”

“I really must pay you.” She dug through her beaded handbag, closing her fist around a bill, which she handed to me with the air of someone bestowing a treat on a young child. “Thank you so much.”

I watched in bemusement as she walked out the door, leaving me to deal with the pregnant cat. I figured I'd take Sylvie home to my sister, Juliana, a gifted healer. She had been begging our parents for a cat lately, anyway.

As soon as the door closed behind the old lady, I glanced at the bill she had pressed into my hands. A single dollar. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

At least my parents are rich.

“This is the last paranormal case I'm taking though,” I said to whoever might be listening.

Sylvie meowed. I think she new I was kidding myself.
#2
Deleted Scene


A couple of years ago, when I was attending a local junior college, I had a friend named Jen who loved to read fantasy novels. Despite her best efforts, she never got me to read them, but she loved to tell me all about the adventures of sword and sorcery and, to a lesser extent, tales of modern fantasy.

I told her stories about my family, too. On more than one occasion she would burst out laughing and tell me I ought to write my ideas down.

I guess she never actually believed that I come from a long line of sorcerers. Considering how normal I turned out, I suppose I can't blame her.

One day, as we were chatting after class, my mom sent me a text message asking if I could pick up a couple dozen eggs on the way home from school. I mentioned the message to Jen, who got an oddly pensive look on her face. Then she said, “If your mom's a sorcerer, why's she texting you?”

I drew a blank. “Because she's out of eggs?”

“No,” Jen said, “I mean, doesn't magic cause modern things to break or something?”

“Why would it do that?” I suspected that whatever she was on about had something to do with the books she liked to read. Though I'd never been interested in those types of stories myself, I was truly intrigued by the idea that magic and modern technology might not work well together.

“Well, because magical energy and things like electricity might interfere with one another.”

“You are aware that our bodies send out lots of electrical impulses, right? I mean, it's just a force of nature, like heat or sound.” I was picturing someone having a heart attack every time they managed to cast a spell.

Jen frowned. “I hadn't thought of that. I guess it's not electricity, then, just modern gadgets.”

“So what, anything invented after 1353?”

“All right, all right, I get it,” Jen said. “But why would a sorcerer use a text message when she'd have magical alternatives?”

“You mean, like a journey book, where she writes a message on her end and it shows up on mine?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Well,” I said, drawing out the answer for effect, “I guess it's because a journey book requires human blood and the cell phone company just wants a two year contract and a monthly service fee.”

#3
How I Met Cassie

Cassie came to me, I didn’t go to her. 

I finished The Immortality Virus late in the fall of 2008, and though I took pride in my second novel, I felt worn out (creatively). When the new year came, bringing with it the opportunity for all kinds of writerly resolutions, I decided I needed to take the year off. I would read, blog, journal, but otherwise give my muse time to heal.

I didn’t make it a year. It turns out, I really am a writer. Writers write. We can’t not write. Taking the pressure off my muse did turn out to have been a great idea, but putting a time frame on it was a bit naive. 

Cassie came to me in mid-February, as I played on the floor with me (then) 9-month-old daughter. I won’t go so far as to say she popped into my head fully formed, but it was close. I sat bolt upright, my eyes probably doing that cartoon bulge, as a light bulb appeared over my head. 

What if… What if the hero of a fantasy story was the only one in it without magic? 

I wrote the first line of the story as soon as my daughter went down for a nap. It read: “My parents think the longer the name, the more powerful the sorcerer, so they named me Nicolas Merlin Apollonius Roger Scot. You can call me Nick.”

Okay, so it needed work. It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted a female heroine. Nicolas (who does not go by Nick and might set you on fire if you tried) became the oldest of Cassie’s siblings.

After that, Cassie told me new things about herself every day. I had a rough draft by the end of June.

#4
Evan Blackwood Character Interview

My name is Christine Amsden, author of the new urban fantasy novel Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. This first volume in a (completed) four-part series introduces us to Cassie, the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers. Amidst mystery, romance, and family feuds, this "new adult" series shows us that there are many types of strength, and many ways to be a hero.

With me today is a more traditional hero from the novel. It is my great pleasure to welcome Evan Blackwood, a young sorcerer with a great deal of talent and potential. Plus, he's really good looking, even if I did create him myself! :)

The 21-year-old Evan hails from Eagle Rock, MO, where the existence of magic is accepted, if not exactly understood. Evan, like most sorcerers in the area, is tight-lipped when it comes to what he can do and how powerful he is, but he graciously agreed to talk to me as long as I don't try to pry into his family secrets.

Christine: Evan, thank you for being here. I understand you've known our heroine, Cassie, for a long time. How did you two meet?

Evan: Cassie and I met in the first grade. I had never been to school or spent much time around other kids, and I made a fool of myself. She helped me out. Took me on as a project, you could say. That's sort of her style.

Christine: Did you know at the time that your fathers were enemies?

Evan: No. I was six, and I don't think I was that aware of what my father did unless it had something to do with me. He told me later in the year, but by then it was way too late.

Christine: So you and Cassie have remained friends this whole time?

Evan: Sort of. Things got a little awkward after I accidentally sent  Paul Ellerson to the hospital. She never said so, but I think she was a little afraid of me after that. She was hardly alone. She got over it, but between that and some rumors that started flying around about me, we weren't quite as close in high school as we were before.

Christine: Are you talking about the rumors that you cast love spells?

Evan: (Glares) Yes. Those rumors.

Christine: Sorry. Sore spot. I assume they weren't true?

Evan: Do you have any other question?

Christine: Where have you been for the past three years? After high school, you kind of fell off the map.

Evan: Magical apprenticeship. Henry Wolf took me on.

Christine: Henry Wolf? Isn't he a little crazy? Lives in a cabin in the woods with no running water or electricity?

Evan: He's brilliant. He just thinks modern gizmos interfere with magic.

Christine: Is that true?

Evan: The first thing I'm going to do when I finish my apprenticeship is buy a cell phone. Then watch movies, starting with the Star Wars trilogy. The original trilogy, not the prequels.

Christine: Why do you like Star Wars so much?

Evan: It's a great fantasy. Good on one side. Evil on the other. I wish the real world was so easy to figure out.

Christine: Is there anything in particular you're trying to figure out?

Evan: Lost of things. But mostly, I worry because of the way my father and Cassie's father hate one another. They both think they're right and the other is wrong. I suppose I should side with my family and I do, but I wish I didn't have to pick a side at all.

Christine: Because you're in love with Cassie?

Evan: I didn't say that.

Christine: No, of course not. So, what are your future plans? After you watch Star Wars, that is?

Evan: I want to do some good in the world. I've got a few ideas, but nothing concrete yet. There are a few things I need to work out first.

Christine: And those few things are...?

Evan: Private.

Christine: I see. And I will leave you to that privacy, but first I have one last question. Is there any advice you would be willing to give us about how to deal with sorcerers?

Evan: Don't.

Christine: What if we can't avoid it?

Evan: (Pauses) Ivy. Plant some ivy to protect your home. And don't leave any blood lying around.

Christine: Those sound like good tips. Thank you for sharing your secrets.

Evan: They aren't secrets. You can learn some basic magical self-protection on the Internet. Although there's a lot of crazy stuff, too.

Christine: Any way to know the difference?

Evan: For the average person? Not really. But the average person probably isn't going to be in danger. It's far worse if you have a tiny bit of talent you don't know what to do with.

Christine: That sounds like something we should talk about when the next book comes out. I hope we'll see you back then.

Evan: Wait. What happens in the next book?

Christine: Don't worry about it. You've got to survive the first book first.

Evan: My grandmother is a seer, you know.

Christine: I know. I created her, too. But there are so many possible futures, I don't know how much she'll be able to help you. I did rewrite the series several times, after all.

Evan: (Glares again) I got to go. Master Wolf is calling me.

Christine: Well then, you'd better go. Thank you so much for being here with me today.

Evan: You aren't going to hurt Cassie, are you?

Christine: Henry Wolf is calling you.

Evan: All right, but for the record, we're not done.

Christine: Absolutely not.
#5
Cassie Scot: Looking Forward

When I talk about Cassie Scot I'm usually not talking about the book, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. I'm usually talking about the entire series. This is my third book, but my first series, so it has been an interesting adjustment for me. In my mind, Cassie's story is complete, even though for the reader it has barely begun.

In fact, Cassie's story is complete. There are four volumes in the series, all written, all under contract, and all pending release within the next year or so. Each of the volumes is framed by a self-contained mystery, which should give the reader some sense of closure at the end. Personal, romantic, and familial problems remain, however, and these issues are what I think of as Cassie's story. The first book is about Cassie solving a murder/missing person mystery. The series is about Cassie discovering who she is and what she wants. I suppose that part doesn't play as well in a teaser, but I think it's relevant. To some extent, we all strive to figure out who we are and how to accept ourselves. This is never more true than when faced with the disapproval or disappointment of parents – something Cassie knows all-too well.

Cassie isn't the only one going through a period of self-discovery. To a lesser extent Evan Blackwood is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. Well, he's sure about one thing – and if you've read the epilogue to book one you know what that is. He's confused about much of the rest. In stark contrast to Cassie, Evan has a lot of magical power and he doesn't want to be like his father – using that power for his own wealth/comfort and little else. At the same time, Evan is used to getting his way and he has the power to take most of what he wants. On the surface this may seem like a good thing, but in Secrets and Lies, book two in the Cassie Scot series, he will learn differently. It was a challenge to show him going through this sort of transformation from Cassie's point of view, but I hope the reader sees it.

When I look at the series as a whole, one of the choices I have often found myself questioning is the use of vampires in the first book. This may seem like an odd thing to say. I mean, it's urban fantasy. Of course it has vampires! Well...

I didn't plan to write the first book right away. In those early weeks, I thought I would write a long short story or novella as a sort of proof of concept. There were a lot of important details popping around in my mind – Cassie character, her family, the town, the rules of magic, the love interest – somewhere in the middle of all that I decided to test the waters with vampires because it's simple. Everyone knows them. They don't require a lot of thought. I don't know when they became permanent, but somewhere along the line I knew I was writing a whole novel instead of a short story, and by then the plot had stuck.

Vampires are not at all important to the overall story. It's not the last you'll see of them, but they don't have a huge part to play. If you're a vampire fan, sorry, but hopefully you love Cassie enough to stick with her. Those who are sick of vampires in fantasy, bear with me. And know that these vampires are Stoker-esque (and not even a little bit sparkly :) ).

“There is nothing so evil in the world as what humans can do to one another.” – Edward Scot (Cassie's father). This may have almost seemed like a throwaway comment in book one, but it wasn't. It definitely becomes important later on, and it's something I firmly believe. I've never thought fantasy novels needed literal demons to fight. Give a human being power, and let's see what he decides to do with it. History has shown us that it isn't always pretty.

The last time I revised the first book in this series, I had completed the final volume. This means that I had my plan fully formed and implemented. There are a couple of little things in the first book that you probably won't even think about unless you go back and reread it sometime after you finish the series. Then you'll think, “Oh, she did have a plan!”

I love it when authors do that. I hope I've pulled it off to your satisfaction as well.

Book Two Teasers:

1. Cassie is going to learn something very important about her mother that she never knew.
2. Kaitlin and Madison will take on bigger roles, and each will develop a problem of her own.
3. Edward Scot (Cassie's dad) and Victor Blackwood (Evan's dad) will come face to face. Their mutual enmity will not be in doubt.
4. The reader will learn one more of the reasons why Edward hates Victor.
5. The mystery will be the search for two teenage girls who went missing from a summer camp.
6. The life debt Cassie owes Evan will be a big deal.
#6
Judging a Book by its Cover:
Reflections on the Cassie Scot Cover

Whether they should be or not, books are judged by their covers. Cover artwork is the first and most prominent representation of a book and as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. (It's a cliché for a reason!) As an avid reader I understand the reality. As an author I confess that it feels weird to have my art (the story itself) judged by someone else's art (a cover picture).

Let me start by saying that I don't create my own covers. Most authors don't. Most of us have little control over them, although I'm happy to say that my publisher gives me more input than usual.

The cover art for Cassie Scot was painted by Ural Akyuz. Wait, painted? Yes, that's right. If this cover strikes you as a bit different from other urban fantasy novels then that's probably because the popular trend these days is for photo manipulation. This style does create striking, vivid, even beautiful images, but I confess that I've got a soft spot for handcrafted art. Photographs are almost too perfect. Paintings leave me with a sense of the abstract. This seems particularly fitting since the title, with the “para” in “paranormal” struck through, is also abstract.

I really like the cover for this book. I didn't care for the cover for my last book, The Immortality Virus, so this is something of a relief! It has also been something of a relief that the response to the cover artwork from the public has been generally positive. I've seen one naysayer (that doesn't mean there aren't more) who thought the cover looks dull compared to others in the same genre. Well, like I said, we didn't do the photo manipulation for this project. If you're in love with that style, this may seem a little dull. I prefer to think of it as different, but to each his own. :)

In case the picture isn't giving you a thousand words, here are a few hundred more to help fill in the details for you:

The woman on the cover is Cassie, more or less as I envisioned her when I wrote her. I even provided the artist with a link to a picture of the outfit she is wearing, though he adjusted the color to better suit the background. She’s looking off into the distance, thinking of… well, any number of things. This series is written in the first person, and a lot of it takes place inside Cassie’s head. There is a mystery, some romance, and even a bit of action, but her own desire to be something more than she is drives the story. It will drive the entire series, actually, only resolving in the final volume.

There is a glow coming from the lake, one the crescent moon can’t fully account for. This is an abstract, a representation of a source of magic that Cassie can’t see and is therefore not looking at, though she knows it’s there somewhere. It is intentionally subtle, and I don’t expect readers to pick up on it. It’s enough that I know it’s there, and if you care to buy into it, then so do you.

Mostly though what I asked for, and what I got, was lovely cover art. There is some darkness in this story, but it is full of light, life, and hope. The leaves are green, the plants are in bloom, and Cassie has a snapdragon tucked behind her ear.

The body of water in the background is Table Rock Lake, a man-made lake that stretches for many miles through southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. The story takes place in a fictionalized town called Eagle Rock, MO, a tourist town on Table Rock Lake in the Ozark Mountains.

There is a real Eagle Rock, by the way. An old friend of my grandfather’s used to live there years ago, and my family visited him when I was a child. He would take us out on the lake on his motor boat. I can’t remember exactly what made me think to use the town’s name and location for this story, but I assure you, it is fictionalized. The real Eagle Rock has a population of 1 or 2 dozen people, and if you blink driving through, you’ll miss it. It was a beautiful area, though, and going with the advice “write what you know,” I decided it would suit this story nicely.

Ural Akyutz should be available to do the artwork for the rest of the series, which will give the books a consistent look and feel. I was nervous while waiting for the cover artwork for this book – more anxious nervous than excited nervous because of the experience I'd had with The Immortality Virus. Now as I anticipate the cover artwork for Secrets and Lies, the second book in the Cassie Scot series, I am excited anxious.

It still feels weird to have my story judged by Ural's artwork, but I stand behind it. I've used the cover artwork on facebook, twitter, google+, and have it printed on the bookmarks I hand out to readers I meet in person.


Review:

This book was fabulous.  I loved it. Imagine being the only person in your family who couldn’t do magic…when magic was what your family did… in a big way.  Cassie deals with it by being sarcastic, irascible, irritating, and totally loveable.

I totally loved these characters and the scrapes they got into.

I give this book 5 out of 5 clouds and look forward to more books.


This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.

2 comments:

  1. Awesome review thanks for sharing! I wish the author well on her tour!:O)

    ReplyDelete