Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

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Book Review: The Death of Dulgath by Michael Sullivan

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’m delighted to bring you one of the best books I’ve read all year…

The Death of Dulgath

Three times they tried to kill her. Then a professional was hired. So was Riyria.

When the last member of the oldest noble family in Avryn is targeted for assassination, Riyria is hired to foil the plot. Three years have passed since the war-weary mercenary Hadrian and the cynical ex-assassin Royce joined forces to start life as rogues-for-hire. Things have gone well enough until they’re asked to help prevent a murder. Now they must venture into an ancient corner of the world to save a mysterious woman who knows more about Royce than is safe and cares less about herself than is sane.

My Review: 5 Stars

Once again, I’m reminded of how much I LOVE Michael Sullivan’s snarky, irreverent writing. More than once, I found myself laughing out loud at some sarcastic/droll quip–most of the time spoken by Royce, but Hadrian gets in a few funny ones as well.

Though a bit slower than most of the Riyria books, this one is no let-down. It’s another story to set up the relationship between the two characters that makes the Riyria books so awesome. A “buddy road trip with an assassination” story, and just enough of the supernatural in it to remind me of the world of Riyria.

Absolutely worth reading!

About the Author:

After finding a manual typewriter in the basement of a friend’s house, Michael J. Sullivan inserted a blank piece of paper and typed: It was a dark and stormy night. He was just eight years old and mimicking the greatest (or only) writer he knew about at the time…Snoopy. That spark ignited a flame and the desire to fill blank pages would become a life-long obsession.

As an adult, Michael spent more than ten years developing his craft by studying authors such as Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck. During that time, he wrote thirteen novels but found no traction in publishing. He did the only sane thing he could think of (since insanity is repeating the same act but expecting a different result), he quit and vowed never to write creatively again.

Michael stayed away from writing for a decade and returned to the keyboard in his forties…but with one condition: he wouldn’t seek publication. Instead, he wrote a series of books that had been building in his head over his hiatus. His first reading love was fantasy, and his hope was to help foster a love of reading in his then thirteen-year-old daughter, who struggled due to severe dyslexia. After reading the third book of this series, his wife insisted the novels needed to “get out there.” When Michael refused to jump back onto the query-go-round, she took over the publication tasks and has run “the business side” of his writing ever since.

Michael’s works have sold more than half a million English language copies, been translated into thirteen foreign languages, and appeared on more than one hundred “best of” or “most anticipated” lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Audible.com.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Dulgath-Riyria-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B014WOCH0A

Visit Michael’s website: http://riyria.blogspot.com/

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/author_sullivan

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Name Generators

For many people, one of the easiest parts of their creative writing (novels/novellas/short stories/comic books, etc.) is coming up with the name of their main character. That name reflects their main character’s personality, traits, characteristics, and profession clearly.

Take the name “the Hunter” (from The Last Bucelarii series). It’s the perfect name for him given who he is and what he does (assassin who can kill anyone). Yet it’s also a nom de guerre, an assumed name. By calling him “the Hunter”, it drives home the fact that he doesn’t remember his real name or anything about his past. A no-brainer, right?

But what about all the ancillary characters? The thief creeping down the tunnel, the alchemist who gives the Hunter what he needs to track down the villain, or the villain’s henchmen? In any book, you easily have upwards of 20 to 30 named characters. They may not be important, but you have to come up with that name, right? Easier said than done, I often find.

Which is why I LOVE name generators!

Name generators give me a list of name ideas, most of which suck pretty badly. But there are always a few gems hidden among the dross, solid names that are perfect for whatever character I’m writing. I like to take parts of multiple names and mash them together, turning two iffy names into one good one.

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Here are a few of the name generators I like to use:

Fantasy Name GeneratorsHere, you can find names for just about everything: aliens, dwarves, bounty hunters, cat-people, trolls, Taurens, pegasi, Knights, hobbits, and the list goes on! Be warned, the names here often sound clichéd, but they can be a good jumping-off point.

Rinkworks This name generator spits out up to 50 names at a time, many of which are impossible to pronounce and not good enough. However, they’re perfect for my name mash-ups, and there is usually one or two solid names per generation.

DonJon This is one of the better fantasy name generators. The names here are pronounceable, and you can find pretty solid names for your characters.

Fantasy NameGen I like this name generator a lot. You have a lot of options for coming up with different types of names (Aztec, reptilian, Lovecraftian, Dwarven, etc.), and it spits out up to 20 names at a time–most of which can be used.

There are others (such as the name generators on Seventh Sanctum or Behind the Names), but these are the ones that work best for me.

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Once is Enough

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West

People who look at my life often find it odd. I work from home, but I prefer to do things at home. I love having people over to hang out, as it gives me a chance to cook and entertain. I love watching TV with my family, or playing board games at night. Between my day job and my writing career, I spend many hours at home. Yet a friend of mine found that unusual. They work from home, and if they don’t get out of the house, they feel stifled.

After they made that comment, I got to thinking about my life, habits, and preferences. I am, by nature, a creature of habit. I like to have things “just so”, and I need order in life. If I’m going to leave the house, I’ll do so for a reason–to go out with friends, to grab a drink, hit the cinema, pick up the kids, go to the gym, etc. But I’m not the kind of person that will leave the house “just to get out”.

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On closer examination, I understand WHY I prefer to be at home: most of the things that interest me are at home. I can spend hours sitting at my desk writing. If I’m not writing, I’m often thinking, researching, or talking about the stories I’m working on. My writing takes up a large amount of my brain “real estate”. Watching TV with my family, cooking a nice meal, and just generally relaxing all take place at home. Home is where my “happiness” is.

To some people, it may seem unusual, but to me, it’s what I like. I don’t think I’m wasting my time or youth at home, but I feel like I’m getting a lot done. I’ve never been happier with my life, and I’m feeling good about all the challenges I’m dealing with.

If you enjoy something, do it! Live your life “right”, and it will be enough. Don’t let people tell you what you enjoy is odd or wrong, but do what you want to do. If it makes you happy and you feel content with your life, it’s worth it.

 

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Author Spotlight: R. J. Davies Mornix

Instead of my usual Monday post, I’m doing something different: shining a spotlight on a fellow indie author/wonderful friend.

About the Author:

R. J. Davies Mornix was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario lived in Toronto for a few years, currently resides in the Sault. She has been writing since she was 8 years of age, (if you ask her mother she would say she was telling stories since she was 6) day dreaming, creating, developing characters, places and tales of woe. Attended Sault College, started out in Police Foundations and then graduated from Computer Engineering.​

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Constantly researching story ideas, conversations, and scenes in ratty notebooks, napkins and slips of torn coffee stained envelopes. Most favorite questions start off with “What if” … what if this happens, what if that happens, what would it be like if this was real? Or what if that was real? She likes reading theoretical physics books, science fiction and hanging out with her minions, husband Dave and two sons.

 

R.J. has just released the first book in her Maddox Files series, following the exploits and adventures of young Dice Maddox, PI. If you love those classic Private Eye novels, this is a book you’ll want to get in on!

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Maddox Files: Back to Business

A riveting jacked-in dreamy mind-bender

Dice Maddox a private investigator in Toronto. First case back after a four year hiatus … but could her first case back be her last?

Ryan Winters a confirmed bachelor walks into her office with marital issues. Mrs. Lily Winters has everyone except Ryan convinced that they are newlyweds.

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Since coming back to the PI business, Dice has discovered her uncle who was her partner and boss first, was keeping secrets. His x-files cases were vast and strange. She had no idea he had these other cases and had kept them from her.

Mrs. Lily Winters fits right into that category. Dice soon discovers Lily Winters isn’t human. But what is she? Alien? Demon? And what does she want with Ryan Winters?

 

Here’s a Taste:

An unseen battle was happening in the universe. It’s a power struggle between good and evil. She chuckled at the thought. As the battle wore on, the lines between the two were getting blurred. Good was mucking up things and getting their hands dirty in the process … real dirty. They no longer could hold their heads high and look down their noses at her kind.

It was becoming more of a battle between those with good intentions and evil … at the end of the day, was there any difference? There was none that she could see. Yet, as a dutiful warrior she would trudge on for her team. Earth was another playground where its occupants were merely pawns in this drawn out struggle. Back on Earth, she inhaled deeply. Smelling them … the humans everywhere, it was like a childhood memory. She had some good times here.

Power … control … these were the weapons of choice for her side. The tug-of-war raged on. Sitting in human form in a small cafe … she mused as she kept a watchful eye on him sitting across the room from her. They sat in the same small restaurant.

Her target … Mr. Ryan Winters, young, strong, handsome … but more importantly brilliant. Catching him now before he became successful was a power play move that would pay off in the long run. Fragile … the whole lot of them … including Mr. Winters. She felt comparable to the wolf hidden amongst the flock of sheep in sheep’s clothing … mingling with them, smiling at them … all the while plotting and planning against them.

On the outside, she appeared to be a very attractive female, and this time around she would go by the name of Lily Winters.

She spied her prize sheep across the room. He was keeping a watchful eye on a table where two young ladies were seated and deep in conversation. They hadn’t noticed him. He sat alone, reading or pretending to read a book. The woman that captured his attention appeared attractive, average height, fit … and her dark hair had the ends tipped blue. He waited until her friend got up and left, then approached her. He said something … she laughed, then got up and left.

It was a wise move. Lily Winters was not going to let her sheep stray too far. No, no, no, she had plans for this one. A delicious grin spread across her red lips as she watched Mr. Winters pay his bill and head back to his office like the good little sheep he was. She mused at the thought of her delicious plans for him.

 

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Maddox-Files-Business-Davies-Mornix-ebook/dp/B01BOPEVFE/

Or Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/maddox-files-r-j-davies-mornix/1123404441?ean=9781504345392

You can find more about Rhonda on her website, or sign up for her newsletters/giveaways/updates: http://www.rjdaviesmornix.ca

Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/R-J-Davies-Mornix-Author-253530731521799/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/rmornix

Watch her YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_YpKdxSmjjkNiQcYVeJoiw

 

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Life Advice to Live By

Here are a few pieces of life advice that I’ve tried to live my life by:

If you blame it on someone else, don’t expect it to get better. – You’re the one responsible for 99% of your problems, and you’re the only one who can fix it. It doesn’t matter if it’s health issues, interpersonal problems, or lack of motivation–it’s YOUR life, so it’s time for YOU to deal with the problem.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” — I love this Ernest Hemingway quote! It’s easy to feel that you are better than your friend, your girlfriend’s ex, or your father/mother-in-law, but it’s not a competition to be better than anyone else. The only person you are in competition with is yourself. The only way to make progress is to be “better” than the person you were yesterday, last week, and last year.

Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect of you. – This is always easier said than done! We all have a lot of things we believe we “should” do, say, and be. If we live life according to those “should’s”, chances are we’ll strive for a pretty impossible-to-achieve standard. To life a truly fulfilling life, you need to determine what matters to you, and strive for THOSE things. Everything else is fluff.

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Only pack what you can carry yourself. – I like to think this means “handle your own shit”. If you have problems, deal with it yourself. If you want to take on a new project or challenge, make sure you are able to handle it. You’ll always have people to support you, but you shouldn’t bite off more than you can realistically chew.

Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now. – This is one I cling to when I’m sitting at my desk hammering away at a keyboard while all of my friends are out partying, or when I’m drinking a cup of water instead of having a beer. There are a lot of things I really want in life, and as tough as it may be, I’m okay to give up on a lot of the “right now” things if it means I eventually get the “want most” things.

Try not to take anything personally. No one thinks about you as much as you do. — Nowhere else in life is this as true as with children. My kids are always doing things that drive me nuts, but they’re not doing it to disrespect or disobey ME–they’re just doing it because they want to. If I take it personally, it can be blown out of proportion. But I’m not even in the equation! When I remember that, it’s easier to manage the situation objectively.

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Book Review: Rising Storm by Kat Gracey

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and today I’m bringing you something a bit unusual (for my reading palate). Our book this week deals with witches, werewolves, and shifters–not my cup of tea, but a pretty solid read overall!

Rising Storm

Tempest Knox lives in Luna Bay, a small Island with a history of supernatural occurrences. Most of them caused by her family. She comes from a long line of witches.

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When her grandmother disappears, it’s up to Tempest to clear out her house. She discovers her grandmother’s spell book hidden in a trunk. Tempest has never believed the witch rumors and while drunk, she reads a love spell.

The next morning she finds a naked man on the doorstep. Add to that a coven working out of the local tea shop and her grandmother’s strange cat, and Tempest finds herself in over her head.

My Review: 4 Stars

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Let me preface this review by saying that this book is NOT my usual fare. I’m not big on paranormal romance/witches/shifters. I struggled to keep reading due to this fact.

However, the book was well-written, with a solid main character that hooked my attention. The supporting characters/love interests made me cringe a little, but the Tempest Knox character is definitely one that I want to read more of.

I didn’t encounter any big revelations or jaw-dropping plot twists, but the story was steady, consistent, and well-paced. Not too predictable, but a good read overall. Once again, not my preferred reading, but it convinced me to read the Book 2 when it comes out. Well done to the author!

Here’s a Taste:

“Come on, push, Melissa.”

“I am,” she snapped back. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She was supposed to give birth in a hospital with doctors and lots of drugs. Not here on her mother’s crappy couch, that had been here since she was born.

“I see the head,” her mother said.

Melissa gripped the couch cushion and pushed again, silently praying that the child wouldn’t be like him. She tried to ignore the chanting in the corner. The coven were all here, five members dressed in dark robes, they were casting protection spells against him. She had eluded him for months and she was sure he hadn’t followed her here, but it was better to be safe rather than sorry.

She pushed again, teeth gritted, resisting the urge to scream at the pain, and the baby slid free.

“It’s a girl,” her mother said, carefully swaddling her in a white blanket.

The child immediately began to wail. As she did, a clap of thunder boomed outside the window and the heavens opened up. It had been a peaceful April evening only moments before, with no mention of rain. That could only mean one thing.

Melissa looked at her mother and she could see that she was thinking it too.  It was the child’s doing. She had caused the storm.

As her mother lowered the red faced, mewling infant into her arms, Melissa started sobbing, “She’s only just been born. How powerful is she?”

Her mother shushed her, “Don’t worry about that now. You have a beautiful baby girl. Have you thought of a name?”
Melissa stared out the storm. “Tempest.”

 

***

 

He stood under the shelter of the trees as the rain pelted him. He could hear the cries of the baby from here. He was too late. The plan had been to stop Melissa before she got back here to the island, but she had eluded him. When he got here, the whole island was protected against him. He couldn’t set foot on it. Weeks turned into months as he tried to bring the barrier down. Everything failed.

Then she came along – his benefactor. She could move freely between the island and the mainland. She agreed to help him remove the wards in exchange for his help in collecting power.

He finally got through only to find that Melissa had outmaneuvered him again.

Knox witches have always been difficult, but they’re smart too. And Melissa knew him better than anyone.

The coven made it impossible for him to get any closer. He wouldn’t be able to lay a finger on her now.

After all this time, he never thought he would end up back here. He still recalled the day he arrived, the first time, washed up on the shore to the east. Ripped from his resting spot, he was unceremoniously dumped on this wretched island.

The first person he saw when he stepped onto dry land was Melissa. There were plenty of beautiful women in the world but there was something about her that pulled him in and it wasn’t just the power she exuded. At first he believed that she was the one who summoned him, but she had no idea what he was. Not then anyway.

She was easy to lure away back then, gullible.

Every time the lightning struck, he would catch a glimpse of them around the house. The coven and their spells. Without Melissa’s power to add to his own, he wouldn’t be able to break through their defenses.

She appeared beside him, his benefactor; her face hidden under a hood, “What now?” she drawled.

“You were supposed to help me stop Melissa. Now she’s protected, back in the family home. The child too.”

“If you hadn’t let her escape in the first place, we wouldn’t have a problem.”

He resisted the urge to smite her where she stood. She still had uses, although not many. Instead he took a few steps closer to the house, trying to catch a glimpse of Melissa through the window. The rain was falling too heavily to see clearly, but he knew she was thinking of him. How could she not be? After all she was bringing his child into the world.

“You will stay here and keep watch, wait for an opportunity,” he ordered.

“And what do I get in return?”

“All I want is Melissa. You can take the child’s powers as payment.”

She nodded, “Good.”

He saw that reptilian looking smile on her face. She was so predictable. He hated that in a woman.

“Keep me informed.”

Let Melissa enjoy motherhood for a while. It wouldn’t last. He would get to her eventually.

About the Author

Kat Gracey: I live in Northern Ireland and I write about my two favourite supernatural creatures – witches and werewolves.  Rising Storm is my third novel to be released after Werewolves of Eden and Witch Moon.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Rising-Storm-Tempest-Knox-Book-ebook/dp/B01DGX3M3O/

Read Kat’s thoughts on her website: www.witchesandwerewolves.co.uk

Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TempestKnoxSeries/

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Grammar Girl

When it comes to creative writing, the “creative” is so much easier than the “writing”. It’s so easy to come up with a beautiful scene, an elaborate plot, or a complex character background. But when it comes time to actually write it into a book or story, that’s where most of us fall short. Using words to paint a picture is a lot harder than we realize!

Finding creative writing resources is always a challenge, which is why I was so happy to stumble across the Grammar Girl column on the Quick and Dirty Tips website. The column has a pretty extensive range of random grammar and writing tips on just about every topic under the sun.

Source: niemanlab.org

Granted, some of them are a bit more eccentric, such as:

  • The Origin of “Straw Man”
  • What is a Canard?
  • Should You Capitalize “The Force” in Star Wars?
  • Plural of Mongoose

The column covers a wide range of strange and unusual grammar tips, so prepare to do a bit of sifting to find more useful information among the highly eclectic collection. However, there are a lot of very helpful posts, such as:

If you need help polishing your grammar, the information you can find on Grammar Girl’s column can come in handy. Just be ready to wade through a lot of “clickbait” topics (Celebrity Grammar, products, quizzes, etc.)!

 

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Book Review: Landquaker by Dean Wilson

It’s Book Review Wednesday! Today, I’m thrilled to bring you Landquaker, the fourth book in The Great Iron War series. If you like steampunk, this is the series for you!

(Note: Read my reviews of Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 to catch up…)

 

Landquaker

The Resistance has barely nursed its wounds from the recapture of Blackout, and it is now looking to another, tougher target: the massive steam-powered railway gun known as the Landquaker. They call the vast railroad the Iron Wall, and that mounted barrel is its only sentry. It does not need another.

Blackout was a sitting duck, but the Landquaker is a moving target, and not only one that shoots back, but one that shoots first. The Resistance turns to old allies and new friends, from the land-loving tribes to the land-roving biker gangs. It will need every soldier it can muster.

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The Landquaker was designed with a singular purpose: a monstrous gun to hold back a multitude of monsters. Except this time the multitude mans that weapon, and in its hands the land is not the only thing that will quake.

My Review: 4 Stars

I’ve enjoyed this series immensely since the beginning, and this book is a solid continuation. I’d have to say that each book is getting better than the last!

The good:

- Loved the continued journey of the main character Jacob. He’s gone from a rogue to a hero-ish character in a very believable way. Great job!

- Many of the supporting characters (Mudro, Rommond, etc.) are still fascinating, with ever-increasing layers.

- Enjoyed the continued exploration of the world. The bigger it gets, the more I want to learn about it.

- Thrilled to find out more about the “demons” of the world.

- Loved the “Great Train Robbery” feel of it all.

The not-so-good:

- Some of the supporting characters (Taberah, Brooklyn, and the kid) lost my interest a tad.

- Not a huge fan of the “machine spirits” addition. It felt a bit out of place in the highly technological world. But that’s just my preference.

- The story didn’t move as fast as the previous books. The climax was excellent, but it took a lot of build-up to get there.

All in all, a VERY good choice for steampunk readers–for anyone who enjoys a good action book, really. I can’t wait to see what crazy steampunk weapon of mass destruction is slated for the next book/s.

Here’s a Taste:

As they headed further into the desert, Rommond looked into the Long Spyglass, scouring the railway in the east. He could not see any sign of the Landquaker, which meant it was either far south or far north, further than the magnification reached. He turned the scope with a creak to either side. He saw Mudro’s moving charade in the south, and it looked convincing. In the north, he just saw a haze of sand, and that was reassuring. He turned the spyglass back to the railway, and still could not see anything. He was growing nervous now. If it was in the south, that was great news, but if it was in the north, where Taberah’s team was hastening, it was the worst news of all.

He stared into the spyglass for an hour, until sleep began to stare back at him. He had not slept well the night before. No one did on the eve of battle. Then, just as slumber almost had him, he saw something travelling swiftly from the corner of his right eye. He turned the spyglass to see it, and there it was: the Landquaker in all its might and majesty, thundering along those rails, its gun pointing forward, away from the landships. It would not point that way for long.

Rommond watched it grow in size, looking at all the little details, the little swirls and motifs that he and Brooklyn had painted on together, that were Brooklyn’s tribal stamp, and his artistic affront to the Regime’s minimalistic style. He also saw that the vessel was now overlayed with the emblem of the Regime, that black square upon a red cross, all angular, without a curve in sight. Its red frame was enhanced by rust. Rommond was certain that the rust would not impede its dreadful firepower, or its tremendous speed along those well-maintained tracks. There were regular inspections by smaller trains and carriages, one of which Rommond was counting on Jacob and company to commandeer.

Then the moment came when he no longer needed the spyglass to see the railway gun. There it was on the horizon, a minuscule figure with a monstrous payload. As soon as that moment came, he knew the battle was on. The platoons split apart, changing formation, abandoning the winding serpent for a wall of their own. They kept a reasonable distance from one another, but Rommond knew it would not be enough.

The first shell came down with an ear-rending whistle, and an eye-roasting burst of light. By the time Rommond’s eyes adjusted, he saw smoke billowing to his left, where the wrecks of two landships smouldered. He was just glad it was not from his platoon. He could not afford to lose a single one. Not yet.

The second shell hurtled down at the head of Leadman’s forces, casting one of the landships into the air. The others swerved to avoid it, and they were glad they were in Brooklyn’s newer models then, which did not take so long to turn.

A third and fourth shell landed in quick succession, showing that the Landquaker’s barrel had rotated fully into place, allowing full use of the loading mechanism, with all the enhancements that Brooklyn had once made. The shells exploded at the front of the formation, missing the landships, but scouring the land and casting up thick clouds of smoke.

Another shell struck the landship just in front of the trucks bearing the Long Spyglass and Rommond, casting the landship up and spinning it back towards them. Rommond ducked, but the spyglass was struck, sending the barrel spinning off on its own. The back truck toppled over, and the general tumbled into the sand. The front truck stopped, and the driver turned to beckon to him.

“Drive!” Rommond shouted, gesturing forward. “Drive!”

But another shell came down upon the motionless truck, making sure that everyone inside was motionless too. The general sighed and shook his head. Some troops let their compassion overcome their training. They forgot his oft-used words: Forward is the only direction. For your feet. For your eyes. For your gun.

About the Author:

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11, when he began his first (unpublished) novel, entitled The Power Source. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001.

He is the author of the Children of Telm epic fantasy trilogy and the Great Iron War steampunk series.

Dean also works as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ARX21O2/

Or Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ARX21O2/

Read Dean’s thoughts on his website: http://www.deanfwilson.com

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanfwilson

Or on Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DeanFWilson

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/deanfwilson

 

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: TV Shows

Warning: This could be a controversial subject for some. All thoughts/comments are welcome!

In the last year or so, I have become somewhat of a TV-phile. While movies are fun, I love the serialized story-telling of TV shows. As a novelist writing a series, I find that watching TV actually helps me to better understand what goes into telling a story over the course of years.

Let’s take one of the most popular shows on TV today: Supernatural.

Over the last decade (11 seasons!), Supernatural has gone through a wide range of changes–from character deaths, new characters, the weekly monster, the season-long story arcs, and the list goes on. And yet, despite all the changes, the show remains about one thing: the relationship between the two brothers.

What makes Supernatural work? Is it the decent CGI effects, the ever-worsening bad guys, or the epic supporting characters (here’s looking at you Crowley and Castiel)? While all of these things play a role, the show is only around because it continues to explore the central premise (the sibling relationship) from new angles.

The moment I understood that, everything in my approach to writing changed. I no longer tried to come up with a new theme for each new novel in my six-book series The Last Bucelarii, but I stuck to one or two central themes (finding a place in a world where you are an outsider, coming to terms with who you are) and built every story around that. Each new story approaches that theme from a different angle, using different challenges to test the main character.

Watching TV has become much more educational in the last few years. I’ve learned so much from watching TV shows, such as:

  • How to keep people interested in the same characters week after week (or novel after novel)
  • The importance of changing things up and finding the new, without going too far out to left field
  • The value of callbacks–bringing things up at the end of the season (novel) that was there in episode 1 (chapter one).
  • How minor details can have large repercussions
  • and so much more…

I’m not going to lie: watching TV does take a lot of time, perhaps even a bit more time than I should be spending on it. But I’ve stopped watching TV for pure entertainment value, and I’ve begun to use it as a learning experience. If I can find what makes shows like Supernatural, The Flash, or The Walking Dead so popular and include that in my work, I believe it will make my creative writing just that much better.

 

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The Difficulty of Simplicity

Brazilian Jewish writer Clarice Lispector once said, “I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.” Truer words were never spoken!

As writers, it’s our job to communicate with as much clarity as possible. This means using the best words to convey meaning. For example, a good writer knows that you NEVER say “He ran quickly”. Instead, you say “He sprinted” or “He darted”. You use fewer words and convey a meaning with greater clarity.

But boy is that hard to do!

I’m willing to bet that the hardest part of writing for most writers is trying to speak clearly and with brevity. I know that when I write, I can agonize over the right way to say something. It’s not about what I’m trying to say, but HOW to say it so that the reader understands what I’m trying to say, and with as few words as possible.

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Coming up with a story is the easy part, at least for me. I can paint detailed pictures in my head of settings, facial expression, character motivations, action scenes, and plot twists. But actually translating those mental pictures into written word is the struggle. As writers, we have to paint those pictures with words, and it’s incredibly challenging to do so in a way that the reader sees the same thing we do.

But that’s what separates the amateur writers from the professionals, and the good from the great. When you read about “cutting adverbs” and “limiting prepositions”, it’s not about following a specific formula for “good writing”. Instead, it’s about learning how to be clear and concise at the same time.

With verbal communication, more words are often a good thing. A conversation can only continue when two people continue to speak words to each other. But with written communication, less is more. Therein lies the challenge of writing. You have to communicate the thought or concept clearly, but without overwriting it. Your goal as a writer is to find ways to streamline your communication as much as possible. If you write like you speak, you’ll lose the reader’s interest. You have to write like you write, and eliminate EVERY unnecessary word from your prose/poetry. Economy of words is the key to holding your reader’s interest!

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