The Rain King does it again. Love.
“Remember, wisdom is attained by three methods: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”
A story of friendship and sorrow, The Baiji involves young Ai Bao and her best friend in the whole big wide world Shu Rui- a girl with a beautiful smile and a weak heart. During the Spring Festival, the girls venture out on a ferry ride over the Yangtze River, hoping catch a glimpse of Ai Bao’s favorite animal, an endangered species of dolphin called the baiji. Will Ai Bao see the rare dolphin or is the baiji gone forever?
A young friend of mine was disappointed that my novel, The Red String, was for young adults. She begged me to write a book for kids. I asked her, “Can I write a short story instead? Books are so long…” She complied and requested a story with a dolphin, her favorite animal. “Okay,” I said.
My knowledge of dolphins being very limited, I dove straight into research mode. As soon as I read about the extinction of the Chinese River Dolphin, the baiji, I knew where the story should begin and end. As for the heart of the story, my little friend inspired me to write a tale about a life-changing childhood friendship. (She is such a loving and loyal friend.)
I outlined a story that was cute and lighthearted, an extinct-dolphin-sighting type twist on Peter and the Wolf. The outline was solid. I began writing. The words kept coming until it was clear the outline was not to be obeyed. This was a different story altogether. A story determined to be told. It made no thematic sense to write a lighthearted tale with the deadly serious issues discovered during my research. The extinction of an entire species of dolphin at the hand of human negligence and the rising pollution of the third longest river in the world demanded more serious handling. The friendship in the story needed to reflect both the innocence and the tragedy. So, the outline was tossed.
This story took two weeks of intense research and writing. I am so excited about The Baiji that I am a bit nervous . . .
Though the baiji is beyond saving, humanity isn’t. I hope this story impresses upon kids and anyone who reads it that mankind won’t escape the damage they do to the world we live in. China’s efforts to help the baiji came too late; and therefore, it was in vain. I pray it’s not too late to reverse the damage being done to their largest water source, the Yangtze River. Hope is dwindling.
Find The Baiji ! (at Amazon on Kindle only.)
The Red String is available on Kindle and in print.
Coming soon- the next book in the Days of the Guardian Trilogy- The Red Cloak!
I’m a good girl. I practically live at church. Why am I reading an urban fantasy with demons, fairies, magic, evil, violence, and microbrew?
Because The Dresden Files is more.
There are scenes like this-
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you were expecting me to share words of wisdom with you, maybe say something to you about God and your soul and forgiveness and redemption. Ans all those things are good things that need to be said in the right time, but . . . honestly, Harry. I wouldn’t be your friend if I didn’t point out to you that you are behaving like an amazingly pigheaded idiot.”
– From Chapter Twenty of Skin Game by Jim Butcher
Besides, have you read the Bible? Okay, enough with the personal justification . . .
Here’s my review of the latest installment (#15) of The Dresden Files, Skin Game-
The basic premise– Harry, a wizard, is now the Winter Knight. His boss is a crazy Fairy lady named Mab. In order for Mab to repay a debt (fairies have their own laws on such things), she sends her Knight, Harry Dresden, to lend his expertise to a gang of baddies planning to break into the most secure vault in Chicago. This vault gets them into an even more dangerous place- the Nevernever. That’s where the job really begins. The baddies’ aim to steal the Holy Grail from the greek god, Hades. Easy, peasy.
The inner conflict in this novel is just as dark and stormy as the outer conflict. Skin Game has a ton of bad guys. Harry’s not so sure he isn’t one of them. He’s experiencing a major identity crisis. Now under the control of Winter, the mantle could smash his moral compass into tiny pieces. He is being pushed to the edge physically and emotionally. To add to Harry’s stress, he also has a gestating evil parasite growing inside him. It could kill him and then destroy everyone he loves next. Harry is also haunted by his past. His guilt (and pigheaded idiocy) are beating him up inside.
Side characters in Skin Game also face compelling difficulties. Harry’s old friend, Butters, is risking his life as a crime (demon) fighting superhero because of Harry’s year-long absence. His daughter is under the protection of his best friend, a former Knight of the Cross, putting her and his best friend’s family in danger. His protege, Grasshopper (Molly), is in over her head in her new role and cannot help him. He and Karrin are more than friends, but the time is never right. Things are complicated.
Other stuff I liked:
Butcher’s writing. It’s detailed and interesting. The action scenes (my least favorite type of scenes) make sense. I actually read most of them. Also, Skin Game is #15 in a series, but can be read alone without being lost. And lastly, Butcher does not fear adverbs. He uses them properly. As a writer, I admire that.
The bad guys. From a giant hairy monster to a wily shape-shifting gentleman, Butcher has filled the bill. Harry is forced to work with his best friend’s arch nemesis, aptly named Nicodemus Archelone. He’s that slippery, intelligent kind of bad guy who pushes the reader to have reasonable doubt as to whether Harry will even survive, much less win. The evil lurking inside Harry is the most insipid and is cause for alarm.
The good guys. As the quote above exemplifies, The Dresden Files isn’t all demons all the time. This isn’t one guy against the world. Michael Carpenter (another great character name) is back and gooder than ever. (I see images of Michael Landon in my mind when I picture this character, but that’s okay. They were both angels, after all.) Butters, the former mortician turned E.M.T., kicks butt with Bob the skull’s supernatural help. Karrin Murphy is the ever faithful best friend/ love interest. Courage is her middle name. She tries her darnedest, and pays the price. Harry and Karrin have a breakthrough in this book and though Butcher takes the reader for a hot and heavy ride, there’s more than one reason for that steamy scene. The last few pages are more meaningful. And a surprising twist comes in the form of a good guy in disguise.
The faith. It seeps through two thirds of the cracks in this book. Pure unadulterated evil fills the other third up. But the good shines brighter. Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith, teaches a few good lessons. Themes of faithfulness, brotherhood, and loyalty permeate the text, whether directly spiritual or not.
The ending. When I finished reading #15 of The Dresden Files, I didn’t hit inanimate objects and wish all kinds of peril on Jim Butcher for sentencing me to another torturous yearlong wait on a cliff. I suspect there will be another sequel, but this time, I was sufficiently satiated. Life may indeed go on.
If you are a fan of the urban fantasy, you’ve probably already read this book. But. if you don’t read urban fantasy and you enjoy a story that is more, I recommend Skin Game.
She looked at my face searchingly for a moment and then said, in a tiny voice, “Do you want to be my dad?”
I went blind for a few seconds, until I blinked the tears away.
“Sure,” I said. It came out in a tight croak, but when I said it she smiled at me.
I met Jim Butcher while in line to hear Jim Butcher speak about how to write a great story. He shocked us all. Read about it on a previous blog post- “Rubbing Shoulders with Jim Butcher”
Jim Butcher’s website is here.
Find the book Skin Game on Amazon.
Jim Butcher’s Goodreads page is here.
I confess- I am an Asian drama addict. One of the first seeds of inspiration for my story, Days of the Guardian Vol. 1, The Red String, was from a Japanese drama series which aired in 2008 (inspired by a book series by Kaho Miyasaka titled, ‘Akai Ito‘ or ‘Threads of Destiny.‘) As an avid knitter, I was thrilled to discover this beautiful myth using string.
Asian mythology is whimsical, romantic, and tragic. The red string myth is all of those things. But my novel is not another re-telling of this ancient fable. There were many other seeds of inspiration…
As a Trekkie. much of my inspiration came from the world of Star Trek. There is even a red string myth in Star Trek! The red thread of note in the Star Trek universe is the infamous ‘red shirt.’ Everyone knows the crew member wearing a red shirt on the away mission is a goner. (If you didn’t know before, you do now!) But I digress…
Star Trek has inspired me to include a futuristic,sci-fi element to my novel. A device that does the impossible, an evil, know-it-all antagonist, and a study of humanity’s humanity and beyond are machinations inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s masterful storytelling.
Another seed of inspiration came from a show I just chanced to come across on Netflix years ago called The Invisible Man. (Not to be confused with the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. I read that also.) There’s nothing new under the sun, but I was impressed by the superhero-curse aspect to the main character (and their spin on the fictional mechanics of cloaking/invisibility) and incorporated it into my story. Almost every superhero tale has inspired me in a similar fashion. (See my post “The Downside of Superpowers.”
Sometimes you need a rescue…
I also admire and am inspired by real-life rescuers. Those who go, do, make a difference- and save the day. Organizations such as the International Justice Mission and Compassion International offer much inspiration. Some famous rescuers I drew inspiration from for the Days of the Guardian series are- Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and God. You could say I view rescue as a religious thing.
“Religion that God accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. James 1:27 NCV
It’s uncanny to me that all these motley inspirations fused together and gave birth to the Days of the Guardian series. Truly uncanny.
How have you been inspired? I’d love to hear about it!
Sherry Garland, Children's Author
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