December 2014 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: December 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

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Book Review: Renaria–Into the Adyton by J.L. Wilson

It’s Book Review Wednesday. Today, we get a book that’s just the right mixture of video games and urban fantasy.

 

 Renaria: Into the Adyton

A small memento, a universal power…

It’s the year 2126, post-World War V. Leda, age seventeen, bounds through the lush forested region of the Desintor Foothills as a regal, bow-wielding, High-Elf Scout. That is, when she’s logged into her favorite MMO game: Renaria.

One crisp fall afternoon, an unseasonal storm fractures the sky of Trinton, New Texas with splinters of emerald lightning and otherworldly songs. Oddly, no one sees the storm except her brother and their guild mate Travis.

She brushes off the event as a fluke, but she can’t seem to get the song out of her mind. Suddenly, a new quest appears in her game directing her to the blue sand dunes of the Sinare Desert to meet Caleb, a legendary Elf Diviner.

Now she has a choice: Ignore the quest and turn off the game, or dive in and risk everything for a shot at an adventure.

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My Review–3.5 Stars

I was excited about reading this book, as the concept seemed interesting. While the premise (youths from this world being sucked into another) could be a bit clichéd, it’s always interesting to see how the author pulls it off.

There were a number of things that the author introduced that made the story intriguing. There was a very real sense of the real world (Texas), and a lot of the story set in our world was easy to follow.

That being said, I found the writing a bit choppy. The sentences tended to be a bit erratic and jerky, without any real flow. There were some pretty jarring transitions that were hard to follow simply because of lack of narrative and description. There was no real sense of the world of Renaria. Considering that it was a whole brand new world, you’d think that there would be a bit more explanation of the world around them than just their immediate surroundings.

Another thing I found difficult was the fact that the teenagers never really seemed to feel emotions. I understand that teenage emotions are different than those of adults, but there seemed to be little genuine fear, anger, or anything. The only thing was the kids felt loss at not having parents, and it was hard to connect with the characters. (My recommendation to the author: read Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist to find a good way of writing YA fantasy).

There was also very little character development. The main character learned her skills FAR too quickly for my tastes, and they all became kind of bad-ass without any real development or growth.

Lack of description was also challenging for me. I still don’t know what the “elf” character Caleb looks like. Perhaps it was described once, but never again. I vaguely recall the descriptions of the main characters, but I don’t remember them being clearly described.

The climax was a bit anticlimactic for me. I never worried that the characters would lose, or that there would be anything bad happening if they did. The sense of urgency just wasn’t there, and I was disappointed by the climax. With the ending the way it is, I felt no desire to read more.

Aside from these things, the rest of the writing was solid. Grammatically correct and with good punctuation and formatting, it was a decent read.

 

Here’s a Taste:

A fireplace blazed with blue flame on the opposing wall next to the bard.

“Where’d he go?” Menaia asked.

“Not sure,” Leda answered as her eyes jumped from the round tables to each of the walls. “Look, there’s a couple of stairs there.” She pointed to a sunken area of the tavern next to the fireplace.

Strumming from the bard’s lute filled the air.

They snuck forwards, trying to avoid the burly, tan-skinned, Sorien barkeep. Leda watched him out the corner of her right eye. Bending over, his head nearly grazed the glass mugs that hung low while he scrubbed the bar top with a brown stained cloth. A board creaked below her foot.

She stopped breathing.

His brown eyes traveled from the bar top to the girls and met her gaze. He smirked and kept scrubbing. His deep voice resumed humming the bard’s song.

Leda peeked down the two steps. They led to a cozy, rectangular room holding a single long table, with four chairs on both sides. Shadows danced on the brown, clay wall from two heavy torches that rested in unassuming iron sconces.

An empty glass sat on the table before the figure in the far corner. His face was turned towards his intertwined hands. Yellow light from the candle reflected on the part of his face Leda could see: the scruff of his reddish brown and gray beard.

“Let’s sit at this far end here,” Menaia whispered as she descended the two steps.

As they pulled the wooden chairs back from the table, they heard a voice issue from the man’s direction. “Leda, Menaia, please join me here.”

Leda watched as he unfolded his hands.

He held them out, palms up, beckoning the girls to the chairs across from him.

Menaia looked at Leda who nodded and rolled her eyes to say, well we’ve come this far.

Leda placed her hand on the hilt of one of her daggers. Prepared to bolt at a moment’s notice, the girls sat down across from him.

“Who are you?” she asked.

He pulled his hood down.

 

About the Author:

J.L. Wilson’s interests in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and video games grew from years of watching Star Trek and anything related to magic, wizards, or space travel. During her graduate studies in anthropology she focused primarily on humans and their interaction with technology. All kinds! Language, tools, cyborgs, etc. In her debut fantasy novel, Renaria: Into the Adyton, she sought out to weave these interests together.

When not writing or reading you can find her in World of Warcraft, FFXIV or the latest MMORPG creating new characters or exploring new quests. She’s on Facebook and Twitter and currently lives in Texas with her husband, four kids (cats) and a dog.

 

J.L. Wilson hangs out on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/AuthorJLWilson

As well as Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorJLWilson

You can find the book on both Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22884606-renaria—into-the-adyton

And Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Renaria-Into-Adyton-J-L-Wilson-ebook/dp/B00NRS9FTE

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Book Review: Dance of Chaos by Tabitha Ormiston-Smith

Bonus Book Review Monday! Seeing as I’m not writing blog posts, I figured I’d get you an extra book review or two. Today, a bit of humor!

 

Dance of Chaos

Lazy, frivolous, conceited and totally self centred, Fiona MacDougall is not an asset to the workforce. When she applies for a transfer to the Infotech department of her company, she does so only in order to get an afternoon off work.

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Can she succeed in her challenging new job?

Can she save her little brother from the consequences of his evil deeds?

Will Moses do something embarrassing to the vicar’s leg again?

In this prequel to the acclaimed Gift of Continence, we see the hapless Fiona at work and in the bosom of her dysfunctional family.

 

My Review: 4 Stars

Written/Reviewed by Samuel Denberg

Fiona has decided to become a computer programmer, and save the world from evil aliens.

“The first big computer I ever saw was in a science fiction movie. It had kerzillions of flashing lights, and tapes going round and round. When it wanted to talk, it made a great booming voice come out of the ceiling, a bit like the Hollywood God. It talked freely, and even made jokes whenever it felt like it, without having to wait for anything as mundane as input.”

Clueless meets Bridget Jones in Fiona. An incredibly naive, optimistic, and big hearted klutz. Her boss is an addict who takes credit for her work. So, when she gets the chance to leave him behind and become a programmer she thinks her problems are behind her. Little does she know, they’re just beginning.

From asking an Aborigine if she is an Australian citizen, to shutting down the main frame computer when the low paper alarm sounds, Fiona’s life is one crazy, embarrassing and ever turbulent adventure. When she is not at work she tries to help her little brother, Patrick, hide his magazines from their always cleaning mother. This situation goes from bad to worse when Patrick’s Jesuit teacher finds him sharing dirty magazines with his class mates. In a fit of teenage self righteousness Patrick decides his older sister will help him get revenge. Meanwhile Fiona must keep her brother out of more trouble, hide from her boss who hates her, and perform a burial service for a plastic tarantula.

As an American I probably missed a lot of the Australian humor. That said, I found this book to be light hearted and very funny. The humor is over the top and unrealistic. Yet, close enough to reality that anyone can relate.

I rarely find this form of humor enjoyable, yet I had a great time following Fiona through one misadventure after another.

 

Here’s a Taste:

The next half-dozen or so branches weren’t really all that difficult, but then they started to look a bit thin. I wondered nervously if the next one would hold my weight. I remembered that I was a lot heavier than Moses. I looked down; the ground seemed to be a long way off. I looked up. This was a bad idea, as Moses, catching my eye, became excited and started scrabbling around on his tiny branch, dislodging all kinds of crap which fell into my face.

“Get a move on, Fiona, it’ll be dark before you get up there at this rate.”

It’s wonderful to have sympathetic family members to aid you in your endeavours.

“Darling, are you quite sure it’s safe?”

Safe? Who did she think she was kidding? From where I was, it seemed anything but safe. I wondered whose neck I would wring first if I got out of this alive. I scrambled up a couple more branches and stopped.

“Get on with it, Fiona. God, an arthritic old granny could climb a tree faster than that.”

“Hang on, I’ve got something in my eye.” I hoped it was only a bit of bark, and not an insect. It had occurred to me that there might be spiders in the tree. I finally managed to get the speck out of my eye. My hair was full of pine needles, and bits of crud that Moses had knocked down. I was less than halfway up.

“Oh God, I can’t bear to watch. She’ll kill herself. Patrick, you look and tell me what’s happening.”

“Well, she’s sitting on a branch about ten feet up. She looks mighty silly.”

“You shut up, you little rat. I asked you to go up and you were too chicken.”

“I was not!”

“Oh, yes you were. Patrick’s a scaredy cat, cowardy cowardy custard, your mother -” I stopped myself hurriedly, remembering that our mother was still there.

Another branch. They were closer together now, and they were all filled in between with little twigs and needles that brushed against my hair and got in my face. Something slipped down my back inside my shirt; I shuddered, and my foot slipped off the branch I was standing on. I clutched frantically at the nearest branch, and managed to stop myself from falling. With the other hand I managed to pull my shirt out of my waistband, and whatever it was fell out. I told myself firmly that it had only been a piece of bark.

I thought about giving up, but Moses was still up there crying, and Patrick was down there laughing. I tried an appeal to his better nature.

“Hey, Patrick?”

“Yeah?”

“If I get killed trying to climb this tree, then will you go up and get him?”

“Oh, yeah, sure, if you get killed.”

Damn. It’s so hard to negotiate without blackmail.

The rest of the climb was a nightmare. I snagged my shirt on a twig and ripped a great tear in it. Every time something brushed against my hair, I was convinced it was a huge spider. My clothes became more and more filthy and torn. At one stage I heard a ripping sound from my skirt, and knew with horrible certainty that the back seam had given way.

I finally got within about three feet of Moses, and I just knew that, if I got onto a branch even a millimetre thinner than the one I was on, it would break and send me crashing to earth, which was now so far down that I couldn’t even see it through the branches. Moses, presumably heartened by my presence, started wailing like a banshee. I pressed in closer to what I was fairly sure was still the trunk, and prayed.

“Moses? Puss, puss puss, puss, puss, come down to Mummy.”

I heard muffled sniggering from Planet Earth. I couldn’t imagine what Patrick thought was so funny. Moses looked at me as if he thought I was insane, and howled even louder.

I went up two more branches; they were bending like anything now. Finally, I could almost touch him if I stretched my arm right out. I held out my hand to him reassuringly. Moses stood up, arched his back playfully, and danced backwards up the branch. He stopped several feet away, sat down, and looked at me. I looked back at him.

As I climbed around to the other side, a branch finally did break. I shrieked, dangling by my hands, for the moment not even caring if I looked ridiculous. Finally, I managed to feel around and find another branch under my feet. I was soaked with sweat, and my shirt had given way under the arms. I was no nearer to Moses than I had been before.

I pondered the situation for several minutes. I had read somewhere that when you’re really stuck, you should reflect quietly, without pressing for a solution. Whoever wrote that had obviously never tried to get a cat out of a tree. After several minutes of quiet reflection, I was standing awkwardly on a very thin branch near the top of a pine tree, with a cat sneering at me from several feet away, a grazed knee, ruined stockings, half the seams on my clothes ripped open, three broken fingernails and God knew what in my hair. I decided it was better to press for a solution.

 

About the Author:

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith was born and continues to age. Trained in private investigation, computer science, philosophy, combat shooting, dog grooming, clinical aromatherapy, and many other fields, she stumbled into the most reproachable field of knowledge: law. As a repercussion, she’s become a lawyer. However, she miraculously managed not to become evil. How, you ask? By the same arcane magicks that cause her toilet to flush in the wrong direction.

That’s right, she’s from the underworld. Yes, they call it Australia, but we all know the truth. Dividing her time between her houses in Melbourne and the country, she is ably assisted in her editing business and her other endeavours by Ferret, the three-legged bandit.

Find Dance of Chaos on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Chaos-MacDougall-Tabitha-Ormiston-Smith-ebook/dp/B00KNL0KLU

Or Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/443098

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tabitha-Ormiston-Smith/137637486306612

And read her rants on her website: http://tormistonsmith.wix.com

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Book Review: Kitsune Strategem by David A Tatum

It’s Book Review Saturday! If you’re looking for a good book to read over the holidays, consider this book…

 

Kitsune Strategem– Book 1 of The Inari’s Children Series

Once magic was plentiful and the world was dominated by a singular empire whose name has long been lost to history. In its time, the great wizard Inari developed his greatest creation: The kitsune. His enemies were quick to copy him, and soon the world was populated with many different types of this remarkable creature. Two thousand years later and these different breeds of kitsune are fighting amongst themselves, and the rest of the human world joins them.

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Book I: The Kitsune Stratagem

To avoid being used as a political pawn against her father, a young kitsune vixen named Kieras must leave her homeland. She soon gets caught up in the fortunes of Mathis, a vagabond hunter from Ekholm, a once sleepy little town on the verge of becoming a small city. To find a way to return home, Kieras must first help Mathis save Ekholm from threats both inside and out.

 

My Review: 4 Stars

Written/Reviewed by Samuel Denberg

This book is well paced and written. The author is a natural story teller and weaves a good plot. That said, I almost didn’t make it past the first chapter. To begin with, the book is called The Kitsune Stratagem. I was expecting Shogun, Samurai, and an Emperor. Instead I found myself reading about a ware-fox who’s living in medieval Europe. Second, Kieras’s father tells her of being attacked by an Amarok. A Japanese were-fox attacked by a giant wolf from Inuit legend? Keep the myths straight or change the names.

Then there are the names of people and nations. One name stood out above the others: Erixonites. While the spelling has been changed, it sounds way too much like Ericsonites. Ericson, is a Norse name. “Ites” is a suffix which has been used in naming tribes from the Middle East since the Bronze Age. Semites and Israelites are but two examples.

The world-building of this story seems to have been chosen from a grab-bag of various myths and names. This could make a great High Fantasy novel, but it must lose its references to earth mythology. It can still have were-foxes, giant wolves and other creatures, as long as the names aren’t directly related to known and established myths.

Last but not least: female foxes in this book are constantly referred to as vixens. I see this as a potential PC nightmare and may also confuse readers. In the phrase “true to her vixen nature,” does the author mean her female fox nature, her angry and unpleasant nature, or her sexually attractive nature? The book also lacks consistency in this area as male foxes are never called “raynard”, neither are young foxes called “kit”.

All in all, a good story with poor world building. I give the story 4 stars but the world 1.

 

 

Here’s a Taste:

“Archers, string your bows!” the call from Mrazek came, echoing up to Mathis’ station from a floor below.

Mathis took a deep breath. When dawn came, it was clear he had been right. While the entire Knodelian army had not crossed the river, a large enough raiding party to give them serious trouble had. Torkki had done his part the previous day. It was finally time to see if he was up to the challenge as well.

He considered using his standard longbow, but then changed his mind. This was a real battle, not practice nor simple hunting. It called for his best weapon. He instead reached for the one-of-a-kind laminated daikyu-style longbow he had build for himself, one which would out-perform even the greatbows the wulvers were armed with.

As he pulled out the bowstring, one of his fellow archers, a wulver named Teslak, approached him. “That’s a mighty bow for a human. Need any help with it?”

Mathis snorted, and then with one quick motion strung it without any noticeable strain at all. “Does that answer your question?”

Teslak let out a loud bark of laughter. “I suppose it does, yes. Laminated yew and ironwood, with a linen string… a hundred strands thick?”

“A hundred twenty.” Mathis checked the wax coating on the string. “Double the average longbow string. Even so, it breaks too often for comfort, which is why I also have a greatbow and a longbow already strung, as well.”

“Interesting,” Teslak said. “As powerful a bow as that seems to be, I imagine it’s hard to be accurate with it, especially for a human.”

“Most humans, maybe,” Mathis said, “but I’ve never had a problem with it.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

Mathis glanced out the window, seeing that the Knodelian advance was about half a mile away and approaching slowly. Normally, that would be out of range even for him, but they were on a platform. “See that man there, with the large purple plume in his cap?”

The wulver narrowed his eyes, looking in the same direction. “An officer of some kind, I suppose.” A low-toned thrumming twang echoed to his right. Teslak glanced over to see the arrow string still vibrating on Mathis’ bow. Glancing back at the Knodelian army, he was just in time to catch the feather-bearing soldier fall. Then he turned and stared at Mathis, his jaw hanging loose in surprise. “How…”

“Well, I—”

“Hey!” Mrazek snapped, interrupting their conversation as his head poked out the top of the ladder behind them. “Cease fire! Save your arrows. You’ll fire when I give the order, and not a second sooner, got it?”

“Yes, sir!” Mathis said along with Teslak and the other wulver archers.

Mrazek started back down the ladder with a seemingly satisfied woof. Before he completely vanished, however, he had one last word to say. “By the way… good shot!”

 

 

About the Author

David A. Tatum was born the son of a librarian.  His father, who worked in such places as the Cornell University Library, the NASA Annex at the Goddard Space Flight Center, the George Mason University library, and the Central Intelligence Agency Library (Historical Intelligence Collection), raised him amongst a collection featuring books on or by American Small Press Publishers (primarily of the post-impressionist and early beatnik eras), translations of Croatian Poetry (some of which were done by David’s father, himself), and other esoterica.  In spite of this background, David decided to turn his literary attention towards Science Fiction and Fantasy, culminating in the publication of his first novel, In Treachery Forged.  With the release of The Kitsune Stratagem and his upcoming science fiction novel, The Merrimack Event, David will be juggling three such series for the forseeable future.  Unfortunately this means he won’t have time to learn Croatian, so he probably won’t be translating any Croatian poetry, himself, any time soon.

 

Find his book:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MAUCLI2

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22873894-the-kitsune-stratagem

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-kitsune-stratagem-david-tatum/1120036023?ean=2940149640768

http://www.fennecfoxpress.com/

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.tatum.180

Or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/David_A_Tatum

 

 

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Book Review: Cut it Out by Terri Gillespie

It’s Book Review Wednesday again! This time, a book I found myself enjoying despite the fact that it’s WAY outside of my preferred genre.

 

Cut it Out

The Hair Mavens are back! Women are flocking to the newly remodeled Hair Mavens Salon. But the salon isn’t the only thing that has changed—two more mavens arrive and create chaos for the ladies. When a life-threatening situation arises, the mavens realize how much they need each other. But, did they learn the lesson too late?

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My Review: 3.5 Stars

When I received this book from the author, I was not looking forward to reading it. It’s not in my preferred genre, and was fairly “female-centric” for my tastes. But when I cracked it open, I found I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.

There is the occasional typo and grammar mistake, and the story moves at a fairly slow pace–though I guess that’s normal for the genre. It places a lot of emphasis on the religious side of things, but in a way that irked me rather than made it seem part of the story.

One thing I found is that the book uses terms and words that is very industry-specific. The author clearly has experience in the field of beauty salons and hair care, and writes as if everyone understands the jargon and terms. Not the case, at least for me.

The ending left me a bit disappointed, as there was no real build-up or climax. It reminded me of serial novels, with a sort of episodic feel rather than being a self-contained story. The darkness in Katya’s story was a bit “in your face”, but it was a good addition to the plot.

That being said, the writing is fairly tight, the mistakes are minimal, and the characters are easy to relate to. The personalities were well-developed, though there are a few things that are too stereotypically “girly”.

All in all, a pretty solid read if you are a woman who likes to read stories centered around the problems women face in the modern world.

 

Here’s a Taste:

Katya flipped through the scraps of paper on the coffee table where she had feverishly written notes from the news program and then later while investigating the CUT IT OUT organization’s website. Shira must bring this program into the salon. She had to. Everyone needed to know how to stop domestic violence.

Even though Katya’s brutal attack was not by her boyfriend, it was someone she knew. She shut her laptop. Justin Langley was a wealthy client whom everyone respected—or at least kowtowed to. Fidel Gooding, her former boss, practically genuflected whenever Justin arrived.

She stood and paced. How many times had she complained to Fidel when Justin made crude and inappropriate remarks? Or touched her backside. How many times had Fidel turned down her requests to reassign Justin to a male stylist?

She paused. Perhaps he had considered her acceptance of the crisp hundred dollar bill tips as encouragement? Was it then her fault that he had raped her?

Here. It was always here that she stopped—she had caused the rape by her own actions. For too long she stayed at this ugly dark place where the nightmares were. After watching this program, looking at the website, and remembering Edna’s alarm that she thought such a terrible thing, maybe it was all telling her this was not truth.

No one would have believed that the handsome Justin needed to force any woman to be with him. Even Yuri had been jealous of Justin. He never would have believed that she had not willingly succumbed to Justin’s attention.

Was that even the truth? It seemed true. She would never know. Still, had she given Yuri the opportunity to believe her? Her fingers tangled themselves in her hair. She twisted a hunk of curls around them, tugging at her scalp.

Nyet. Instead of giving him that chance, she had thrown random clothes into her mother’s tattered suitcase, left a cruel note that she no longer loved him and not to look for her, and then took the first bus out of Manhattan. How she ended up in Gladstone, Pennsylvania, was still a mystery to her. Had she not stumbled upon The Hair Mavens Beauty Shop, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty she would never have met dear Edna. The woman who saved her.

She untangled her fingers and pushed her hair behind her ears. No one should have to go through what she had. Men like Justin should be stopped by any means possible.

They had to pay.

He had not only raped and beaten her, but had stolen her life. A successful career, a man she loved, a beautiful apartment, and a future her mother could only have dreamed of for her.

She stomped across the bare hardwood floor. That brute had taken everything from her. Her fists balled tightly. She wanted to hit something. Hit it hard. Instead, she grabbed her purse off a chair and threw it across the room letting loose a scream. It spun out its contents and slumped into a black lump of leather. If it had been closer she would have given it good kick.

Her heart raced and her chest heaved. But she felt alive. Empowered, as the woman said in the news program—she felt that.

She would present to the mavens what she had learned about CIO tomorrow. Or perhaps she should wait until they could all take the class at the hair show. She bent to pick up the envelope to the PECO bill where she’d written all the particulars of the CIO class on the front and back. It was just one session on Sunday afternoon. Shira just had to make Harriet and Beulah attend.

Should she tell them why it was so important—to her? No. They would see the merits alone. Shira had said she wanted the mavens to be more “socially conscience” and get involved in the community. How much more involved could they be than to save women’s lives?

 

About the Author:

HEADSHOT_TERRI_GILLESPIE

Terri Gillespie is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, and speaker. She is head writer for the Restoration of Israel Minute heard on 25 stations in 11 states and Canada, has contributed to several other books, magazines, newspapers and published her first book, Making Eye Contact with God—A Weekly Devotional for Women. Her first novel—The Hair Mavens: She Does Good Hair—won BWB’s Best Women’s Fiction for 2013. Book two of The Hair Mavens: Cut It Out! was released in December.

Find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Cut-Out-Hair-Mavens-Book-ebook/dp/B00PKD0RM8

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Writing Mistakes: Not Taking Time Off

As artists, we writers tend to be a bit addictive. There are few things more wonderful than the joy and suffering of creation, and it feels so nice to be able to sit down and write to our heart’s content. Hours can fly by in a heartbeat, and before you know it, you’ve got a pounding headache, tired eyes, a body wired from too much caffeine, but three or four chapters done. We want to do it as much as we can, so every spare moment is spent in the pursuit of writing.

But that’s a mistake!

If you’re always writing, you’re never learning, living, reading, or networking–four of the key ingredients to being a writer. You need to spend time:

Learning — This is essential for your career as a writer. If you never study how to write better, subject your work to the cruel mercies of critiquers, or work on sharpening your skills, you’ll never improve.

Living — Your work has to draw on real life experience in some way or another, but how much experience can you get from behind a desk?

Reading — Without spending time reading, you will NEVER improve your skills. Reading helps you to see what other authors are doing right, as well as what they are doing wrong.

Networking — You cannot do well if you treat your work as an island. You have to reach out to others, interact, offer help and advice, and basically market yourself as a writer.

But you can’t be doing these things all the time either! If you never take time off, your poor brain is going to explode from all of the stress and worries of writing, reading, living, working, marketing, and so on. You can’t let your family and friends suffer as a result of your passion.

How can you put feet to this?

In the New Year, I’m going to back to work on January 5th. I’ll get that solid 1 hour per day to work, hopefully five (sometimes six) days per week. Here’s how I’m going to divide it up:

Monday, Friday, and Saturday: Writing Time

Tuesday and Thursday: Networking/Marketing Time

Wednesday: Study/Critiquing/Beta Reading Time

Of course, I’ll try to fit in writing every day, but at least by having this division, I can make sure that everything that needs to get done does get done. It’s by no means a perfect system, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

And, of course, I will be taking time off from the 24th of December to the 4th of January. That is a solid 10 days to spend with the family, friends, and recovering from the post-turkey food coma. Hopefully, when I emerge from my vacations, I’ll have a few chapters of Book 2 under my belt.

I will post a few book reviews between now and Monday the 5th, as I have a long list to get through. To all of my friends who are taking the holiday off, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2015…

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Book Review: Werecat by Brian Woods

It’s Book Review Saturday, the day you get a bonus book review. Thankfully, I’ve got a buddy to help me review books, and with his help, I’ll get to do two or three reviews per week. Who knows, if things go well, it could even turn into a full-time thing.

Today’s book, a short story about a werecat…

 

Werecat

Hiding from his past, and seeking out a new life, a young man makes his way to Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1970s. Trying to forget his life in New York City, he attempts to blend in with the big city life of the South East. The problem is that he doesn’t fit in. Being a Werecat, you can never fit in.

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My Review: 3.5 Stars

Written/Reviewed by Samuel Denberg

This was an interesting short story. The werecat immediately caught my attention, though I can’t tell for sure if he’s a cat that shifts to be human, or a human who prefers cat form. The story line is good, with lots of potential. I think it’s a great setup for future stories. The people however, are weak, and it’s a bit hard to like/develop a feel for the characters.

Alex seems to have a code of ethics. After all, that’s how he gets into trouble in the first place. He protects an innocent from being extorted. However, when he is asked to extort and steal, he doesn’t hesitate. I would also go into why being a cat makes him a better lover. Most cats I’ve known are great at receiving affection but, don’t usually give any.

This got my attention and makes me want to know more. Where is this story going? What kind of trouble will Alex get himself into? How will his condition affect his interactions with those he cares about? Is there anyone he cares about?

Aside from several punctuation and structural problems, I’d say this can be a great first chapter. As the beginning of a book, I give it 3.5.

 

Here’s a Taste:

My introduction was sweet and simple. They called me the Contender only  and didn’t rattle on about my weight, height, and family history. Thank goodness, I was bored to tears listening to all the nicknames of the man who stood before me as an opponent.

We approached each other, studying each other, and looking for an advantage. It was obvious to me he found his advantage. He was bigger than me, his muscles looked larger than mine, and I appeared more feminine than masculine in comparison. I smelled the scent of something sweating from his body, almost like an unnatural enhancement. I had heard about steroids before, but this was the first chance to see them in action.

I stared at his arms. His right was slightly larger than his left, so that gave me the idea that he was right handed. The unevenness also suggested he didn’t have much of a left, either. Also, I could tell he favored his right ankle, so he was weak, but not wounded. It would be easy to avoid any right handed punch, and that was surely going to be his first hit. He had a reputation for ending the fights quickly, so he was bound to go for his strongest hit.

He tried to fake me into believing he was equally well with either hand with his stance and movement. I failed to take the bait but still made him believe that he had tricked me. He jabbed with his left a few times, but not close enough to come into contact, and then he launched the right fist.

He lunged with it, putting all his weight and power into it. I waited, wanting him to believe his punch would land where it was aimed. I needed him past the point of no return so that he couldn’t back up and defend himself. He was vulnerable this way, and I took the advantage. Dodging, I sent a right hook to his face, shattering his cheekbone. Then my elbow caught his nose, breaking it, sending a flow of blood to his upper lip. The finishing move was a kick to the solar plexus that sent him barreling over, coughing blood all over the ground.

He fell.

 

About the Author:

Brian Woods, author of the Tales of Suruale series, is a sci fi / fantasy writer from mid Alabama. He works at a specialized computer programmer during the day, but at night, he unleashes his imagination to bring wonderful tales to all of his fans. Since his first fiction release in 2011, Brian has continued to impress his fans and followers by increasing his skill of story telling with each book. Along with the stories he writes with his co writer and mentor, Roy C Booth, he has also released a few solo stories, including his most recent story Wildman. Wildman is found in an anthology named In Shambles, an anthology featuring New York Times Best Selling Author Kevin J Anderson.

Brian’s desire is to finish his nine book series, A Werecat’s Journal, and the fifteen book series, Tales of Suruale; while continuing to release short stories within other anthologies. His schedule for 2015 is to release another Tales of Suruale full length novel, Delta Rose (a horror novella), Traylein: Strength of a Woman (a romance novel), and Validity (paranormal romance). Roy C Booth and Brian Woods have finished the first novel in the Valkron Saga, and hope to see it released in the early part of 2015 as well.
Find his book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Werecats-Journal-First-Life-ebook/dp/B00I4X9PI8

Want to connect? Check him out on Facebook: www.facebook.com/brwriting

 

The Breaking of A Writer

Being criticized is something that very few writers are prepared to handle. When you hear someone saying, “I can’t believe you’d write a character like that” or “Oh, that’s clichéd”, it stings to the very core of your being.

Being critiqued isn’t much better! The only difference between being criticized and critiqued is that the person doing the critiquing is trying to help you improve your work, while the criticizer just has negative things to say. It still isn’t any easier to hear.

I submitted the first 500 words of my book to a critique group on Facebook, and the first thing I received was “NO ONE reads the prologue”. I thought my prologue was awesome and gripping, and I had spent a lot of time on it, yet the people critiquing basically tore that notion to shreds. They said, “Eliminate it completely, and start with Chapter 1.”

Over the course of a VERY long, and VERY intense afternoon of trading emails and comments with the critiquers, I finally hammered out the perfect compromise: the important portion of the prologue is moved to Chapter 1, thus leaving in the vital information without keeping the thing people seem to hate.

When I reached out to some of the people whose feedback I respect, they all told me the same thing: “It’s much better now, without the prologue”. Well I’ll be damned! All that pain and suffering of hearing my work destroyed and re-built actually made it come out better than before!

Writers, make it a point to listen to critiques, especially from people whose advice you can trust. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to shred your work into millions of tiny pieces, but there are also many who will help you put the pieces back together into one solid work of art.

If you want to become the awesome writer you have the potential to be, listen to the critiquers and take their advice. You may not take everything they say, but be willing to at least consider it. Don’t cling so tightly to your “baby” that your work ends up being second or third-rate, but let those people and their incredibly painful comments help you make that work a first-rate piece of art it may one day become.

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Book Review: Hopebreaker by Dean Wilson

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and here is a book I feel very fortunate to have read. Not only is it a great  story, but the author has been VERY friendly and helpful!

 

Hopebreaker

In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.

Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.

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My Review: 4 Stars

The moment I opened the book, I was hooked. The villain was set up immediately, with just enough of a hint to make you fear him without really telling you why. I love a good mystery like that, so it helped me to want to read more.

My interest began to wane a bit in Chapter 2, and I was forcing myself to read by Chapter 3. The book was written well overall–very few typos, the occasional phrase I would never use, etc. There is a good amount of information given to keep you interested in wanting to know more, but without a huge info dump.

My main issue with this book was with the lack of description. The author uses the word “war wagon”, but without telling us what it looked like, how big it was, etc. The main character spends a lot of time in this “war wagon”, but I have no idea what it was. I thought it was a tank at first, but the description makes it seem WAY too big. Basically, I could only picture the immediate surroundings of the character, which made it hard to put myself in his world.

The writing was a bit erratic and jerky at time. The sentences were all TECHNICALLY correct, but the flow just wasn’t there for me. The structure was very “UK-ish”, which made it hard for me to read.

It tends to move quickly–sometimes too quickly, in my opinion. You get a lot of story, but without really getting a feel for the characters. The main character–Jacob–started off good, but I liked him less and less as the story went on. He’s too cool (unrealistically so), and never experiences a moment of fear. His only “weakness” is his love of money, and the author goes out of his way to emphasize that WAY too much. At the end of the book, I strongly disliked the main character, and not in a way that would make me want to keep reading.

That being said, the diversity of the characters was pretty good. Some were a bit clichéd–the general with the walrus moustache, the predictable bad guy, etc.–but overall the characters were interesting. They could have used a bit more fleshing out, as it made me hard to care when they died or were in pain.

I give it a four-star rating because it was pretty well written and the story was interesting, but had the characters been more relatable, it would have gotten a five-star review!

 

Here’s a Taste:

Darkness fell upon the dunes, sapping the yellows and reds, replacing the grains with the overwhelming blanket of black. While Jacob was comfortable in the darkness, he felt more than a little claustrophobic in his metal cage, and he found driving more difficult, because now he was following the tiny flicker of fire that emerged from the cracks of the vehicle ahead. He did not know if they had lit an oil lamp, or if it was just the light of the furnace, but he was glad that it was there, and he tried not to block the light of his own furnace, to avoid a pileup of landships behind him.

For much of the journey in the darkness the pale flicker was not enough to guide him, and the smoke and steam that each landship released was no help, so he had to strain his hearing to catch the revving of other engines and the turning of their tracks.

“We hadn’t quite planned for this darkness,” Jacob whispered to Andil.

“We did,” Andil whispered back. “Believe me. It’s better this way.”

Suddenly the tiny glimmer of fire from the landship ahead went out, and the sounds died off suddenly, as if the darkness had consumed all things.

“Stop and douse!” Andil whispered harshly, and he took a bucket of water to the furnace, which hissed angrily as its fires flickered out. Jacob pulled the vehicle to a halt, and he glanced through one of the peepholes in the back to see that the other fires were being swiftly snuffed out.

“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked.

Andil shushed him. In the tiny glimmer of light that the embers cast, Jacob could see that Andil was hugging his legs, and that his hands were trembling. Jacob bit his lip to stop it following suit. He was not certain if he should peer outside or just stare at the disturbing shadows on the inside of the chassis. He hoped with fervour that nothing was staring back.

It seemed like an agonising wait, made all the more agonising by the enforced silence. His mind screamed at him, and his tongue tried to defy his belligerent lips. He thought that perhaps that was another reason why he bit them so fiercely.

Suddenly there was a deafening screech, louder than any Jacob had ever heard before. He covered his ears, and he saw that Andil had done the same, but Andil’s hands shook even more violently than before, as if he was fighting off an attacker that assaulted with sound. Another cry of metal sounded outside, followed by a phenomenal thump, which shook the ground and shook the landships, and shook anyone inside who was not already shaking.

Several more thuds struck the ground, each one growing fainter and farther away, until eventually the sounds were very distant, yet no less terrifying. Even when silence returned from wherever it sought refuge, the sounds continued to echo in all minds.

“What was that?” Jacob whispered, much lower than before.

“A Behemoth,” Andil said.

“It sounded big.”

“It is.”

 

 

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.

His epic fantasy trilogy, The Children of Telm, was released between 2013 and 2014.

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.
You can find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QO2FQ52

Or on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23698892-hopebreaker

Dean hangs out on his social media sites, as well as his own website:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6082024.Dean_F_Wilson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanfwilson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/deanfwilson

Website: http://www.deanfwilson.com

 

Writing Mistakes: The Publishing Trap

In this week’s episode of Writing Mistakes, we’re going to deal with one that very nearly sucked me in!

With The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer finished, it’s time for me to look into publishing options. I already know what I can do if I go the route of self-publishing, so I decided to send it out to a few traditional publishers to see what they say. I’ve gotten a few positive answers, and I have at least two good options that I should know more about before the Christmas holidays.

A third option presented itself to me the other day, in the form of an offshoot company of an established publisher. But when I was sent the writing contract, a friend of mine pointed out that there were some SERIOUS red flags. When I posted the details of the contract to a Facebook group filled with publishers, writers, and authors, the responses I received were mostly along the lines of “Run, run far away!”

The truth is that for newbies like me, the world of publishing is WAY beyond my understanding. All of the legalese about “net profit”, “profit sharing”, “licensing rights”, “worldwide rights”, and all the rest is very complicated. Thankfully, there are people who can help!

DO NOT make the mistake of signing the first contract you see. I haven’t signed anything simply because I want to find the best deal for my book–both in terms of marketing help and royalties earned. But I’m glad I haven’t rushed into anything, because had I done so, I could have found myself locked into a contract that would earn me next to nothing.

Don’t be sucked into the promises made by publishers who want to offer you a “great deal”, but who offer it with iffy terms.

Always look up the publishing company on sites like Preditors and Editors to see what it has to say.

Ask people you trust for feedback on the terms of the contract, and find people who understand these contracts to help you figure out exactly what you’re being offered. Lost in the legalese may be something that could SERIOUSLY impact your ability to make money as a writer.

If you don’t have a lawyer to go over it, go online and search for sites that will peruse your contract to make sure everything is above-board. There are sites like this that exist, and they can help you save yourself from a nightmare contract.

 

For those interested, I have a document with a sort of “flow chart” to help you figure out whether or not your publishing contract is a good one. It was created by the CEO of a publishing company to help newbie authors avoid the publishing trap!

 

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Book Review: Adversaries Together by Daniel Casey

Bonus Saturday Book Review!

Today’s book is a fantasy novel by one Mr. Daniel Casey…

 

Adversaries Together

Adversaries Together is the first book in the new fantasy adventure series Ascendant Realms. In this opening installment, we are introduced to the men and women who will go about changing the world of Syr Nebra. The political intrigues of city-states attempting to become nations and eventually empires vying for control of resources as well as the hearts and minds of the numerous human races is the focus of the series.

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My Review — 3.5 Stars

The punctuation errors in the first sentence started the book off on the wrong foot, and I found that there was a typo or three on just about every page.

The author uses words like epitrachil, verecund, and monition, and they are just too complex for the average reader–sort of pushing them away. The descriptions of the world and the political system can be a bit complex and hard to follow, and yet there’s very little given about the characters themselves.

The paragraphs are WAY too long for me to easily read, and the book tends to be very wordy. It’s focused a lot on the political situation, but without giving much background on the politics. The names are complex and hard to keep track of, with so many characters introduced that it takes a few minutes to shift between stories.

There is A LOT of information packed into short sentences, and the author sort of “hints” at information without actually explaining them.

Fight scenes are VERY weak, with a lot of “tell” and not as much show.

Now for the positive!

I found it a lot like R. Scott Bakker’s “Prince of Nothing” series in terms of the complex political systems, the sort of distant characters, and the overarching story line. With a professional editor to help shepherd the story along, it could be nearly as good.

The world is immense and very complete, and though description is lacking in some places, you definitely get a feel for it as you read.

The characters are fascinating, though it can be a bit hard to identify with them. You get the POV of a lot of different characters, and you see the world though a number of eyes–a good thing in this case!

The various story lines are threaded together quite well, and the political intrigues and machinations are laid out neatly by the author. There is a lot of detail that cannot be found in other books, making it a pretty great read.

As long as you’re not a grammar/punctuation Nazi like myself, most of the typos and mistakes will be hardly noticeable as you are sucked into the world built by Daniel Casey.

 

Here’s a Taste:

“Come, I’ve found something.” Kira nodded for Fery to follow her back toward the towers.

Fery spun and hopped down from the wall, “Lead the way.”

As they stepped through the doorway they pause as their eyes adjusted to the darker interior. The tower room was empty but for three ladders that with the doorway divided the circular space into fourths. In the center of the room as a stairway pit that disappeared in darkness.

“You’ve been exploring?” Fery asked as Kira lead them down the stairs.

“Yes,” Kira ran her hands along the walls of the staircase and when they reached the bottom the passage opened up into a corridor that she had torch lit earlier.

She point to the right, “So that leads down to our camp.”

“The great room.” Fery nodded.

“Right,” Kira turned to the left, “But down here the corridor moves to under where we were standing.”

As they walked Fery noticed more and more light coming in, then as the hall turned slightly it opened up into a wider hall. There were window every five feet or so, not the long slits of the towers and other building but larger and teardrop shaped. The floor and walls were smooth, covered in a white plaster making the whole hall perhaps the brightest place in the dwelling. Fery went to the nearest window and looked out, she saw the open glen below.

“Brilliant view.” She said.

“It’s more than that,” Kira came over, “The trees are set at just the right angles that these windows are obscured but we can see out.”

“Clever.”

Kira pulled Fery along, “But that’s not what I want you to see.” They moved down the corridor and when they reached the end it opened up into a large room. The ceiling rose up like the interior of a dome and the floor dipped down slightly making the entire space look even more cavernous.

“This is larger than the great room.” Fery stepped inside and wandered toward the middle of the room. She pointed up to the open circle at the ceiling that was pouring light into the room in an empyreal cone, “Where do you suspect that is?”

Kira shook her head, “I don’t think it’s as near as we think. I was staring up at it for a while and I think it’s like a well with mirrors all along it.”

“You think it’s pulling light down from some far up opening?”

“Something like that,” Kira nodded, “It wanes when clouds come by but you can still see a quite bright glare up into the opening.”

“Whatever did they do here?” Fery shielded her eyes as she tried to spy what Kira spoke of.

“It’s a bit like the solars they have at the Cathedral but not,” Kira walked along the wall, “But this is was is really interesting.”

Fery turned to look over to her, she blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes. They refocused and she saw what Kira was talking about—a giant mural circled them, a vivid bas-relief.

“And then look up,” Kira craned her neck as she walked backwards slowly to join Fery, “It’s a map of Syr Nebra.” The walls sloped up and the two saw the great painted map of the world encircling them.

Kira pointed just to their left, “There we are.” A bright yellow teardrop marked the Cruor, perhaps six feet from the Novostos.

“There’s more land here than I know.” Fery followed Kira’s finger then drifted to the left of it to find her own city, Rikonen, which was marked by a red diamond. She kept turning her head expecting to see The Deep come back around but just kept going, “The Deep is huge.”

“And look,” Kira drew Fery’s attention back to the right.

“Where is that?”

“I’ve never seen it before,” Kira admitted, “I didn’t think there was anything much beyond the Ashka Sea over the Ragans.”

“My father told me about Lappala but this…” The land continued down below the black diamond that was Lappala for several feet before it joined the bright white that signified the southern pole. But to the east of Lappala there was more land although not a single bit of it was named or had a mark on it.

“And there’s more beyond the North Sea,” gestured to the strip of land that looked like it was painted as mountains that lead to another expanse just as large as that south of Lappala. It too bled into the white of the northern pole, “Whole lands that they knew existed but didn’t know anything about.”

“That we’ve never known about.” Fery added.

“Queer, isn’t it? How between the Cathedral, the Spires, and Essia that we know nothing of these places?” Kira’s voice was full of wonder, “A whole sea beyond the Ashka that we’ve never set an oar in or felt the wind of.”

Fery nodded equally awed, then she turned to Kira with a confused look on her face, “Do you think Roth knows about this?”

“He must.”

Just then there was a voice echoing through the halls calling out to Kira and Fery, “Speaking of.”

“I’m becoming far too aware of that bellowing.” Kira said conspiratorially as she made her way back. Fery lingered looking around for a few more moments. It seemed like an eternity as she took in the mural with the light from above seemingly illuminating new parts of it.

“Fery!” Kira had come back and stood in the doorway, “Fery now, come, this sounds important.” Kira’s voice was urgent.

 

About the Author:

Daniel Casey has a MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from the University of Notre Dame. He’s been an adjunct English instructor, a soccer journalist, and a literary magazine editor.

Find him on:

Twitter: @misanthropester & @ascendantrealms

His Blog: https://misanthropester.wordpress.com/

 

And his book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Adversaries-Together-Ascendant-Realms-Volume/dp/150328686X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1416618174&sr=1-1

Or on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23589357-adversaries-together

 

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