Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Christmas photo outtake.
I hope you all enjoy the last couple weeks of 2014! With the way the weather has been so crazy, there are no guarantees that we'll get a white Christmas this year. We've had a few good snow falls, but they all wound up melting.

This has been a good year for our family. Our son is growing like a weed, and our daughter has started school and is thriving there. We've added a dog to our family. Petey is so sweet and good. He's going to need some teeth pulled, but that's life with an animal, right? You have to take the good with the bad. My wife is working part time for the Guelph Community Health Centre as a Women Everywhere (WE) Breastfeed Program Promoter. It's a cause she's passionate about, and she's been volunteering with them for a while now. She helps new moms who are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding, and runs breastfeeding cafes where moms get together with their kids and share stories and information.

One of many highlights this year!
In terms of my writing, this has been a great year. Things haven't gone as far as I'd hoped. I thought I'd have A Wizard's Gambit out a while ago, but it needed a lot more editing work than I'd initially thought it would. I'm grateful for the help from +R.J. Blain and my Aunt Mary, who have helped me improve the story tremendously. I'm well over 40,000 words into A Hero's Birth, the final book in the trilogy. I'm planning my next (and final) Indiegogo campaign to help cover production costs for the last book. There are going to be some amazing perks, and I think I'm going to have to order some extras for myself!

I've sold more books this year than the year before. The short story Cattle is in the pipe for a future Theme-Thology. I've got a novella ready for editing. Sharing the Campus Author event with my family was a wonderful experience. And I got to attend my first conference as a vendor and had a good time, even if the traffic was low in the marketplace.

I couldn't have done all of this without you. From family to fans to the writing community, I draw strength from all of you. So thank you for your support, whether it's been buying books, chatting with me about all manner of things, or even just +1'ing my posts.



From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review: The Only City Left

The Only City Left, by Andy Goldman



Genre: Science fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars


Eighteen-year-old Allin Arcady only wants one thing: to reach the Roof of the World and see the Sun for the first time in his life. The problem is, he's lost in the depths of the ruined planet-city called Earth, fleeing the horrors of his past.

When his past catches up to him, Allin is thrust into a science fantasy adventure in which he meets a race of genetically-modified cats, tangles with vengeful werewolves, and parlays with cyborgs. Along the way, Allin is forced to decide: will he spend his whole life running or take a stand against the forces that want to finish off the Earth once and for all?

 

Generally speaking, I don't like first person point-of-view (POV). I find it constricting in an uncomfortable sort of way because a lot of authors do it poorly. It's a delicate balance of keeping things interesting around the main character, while also giving the reader the impression that there are still important things going on in the larger world.

That said, +Andy Goldman pulled it off beautifully. The only point I had difficulty with was Allin's ceaseless and unflappable desire to see the Roof of the World. I knew he wanted to, and it was important to him, but it never came across clearly in the book why this one particular goal was such a strong driving force for him that he would put his life in jeopardy. But then, he doesn't sound like he had much to live for at the start, anyway.

The scenery was described with just enough information to paint a picture in the reader's mind without going overboard. Some of the places in the City were downright creepy and one left me feeling uncomfortable. I still feel a knot in my stomach thinking about it!

The cast of characters is interesting and different from anything I've read before, and I loved the cats. I kind of want to dress up my cat Bob in a poncho and rename him Tumble. Except my lazy beast has little in common with the adventurous cat depicted in this book.

Without getting into spoilers, the ending is satisfying. That's a big one for me with books lately, because I've been finding endings that are either half-assed or just dropped right in the middle of things in an attempt to get me to buy the next book to see how it continues. Those types of tactics don't work with me. I hate that, and will often refuse to get the second book on principle.

But for The Only City Left, I am excited to get my hands on the sequel! (Note: It's called The Fifth House, and has an estimated release date of mid-March!)





Available in paperback and ebook

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Review: The King's Sword

Review: The King's Sword, by +C. J. Brightley.



Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2/5 stars


I almost put this book down after the first page. Again after the first chapter. I didn't start to enjoy this story until the 5th or 6th chapter. The big problem for me was the 1st person POV. Generally speaking I really dislike 1st person, because there are so many ways it can go wrong.

The reader has to like the character or at least be able to identify with them in some way. The character was ill-defined. I had no idea of what he or she looked like (and you probably just picked up that I didn't even know the gender). Who was this character, and what were they doing? Why should I care? The "looking backward" voice of the story lets you know right away that the protagonist will survive - and that's one of the things I hate most about 1st person. The certainty that the character will live. I like it when every character might not make it, and it can be done in 1st person, but with the constant references of, "Looking back on it..." types of sentences always pulled the punches. I never, at any point, felt any fear for Kemen's life, even when he was in the thick of dangerous situations, and that stops me from being as invested in the story.

Combine this with a hard-to-read parade of "I did X. I thought Y. He did Z." types of statements that felt highly repetitive and tedious, and by the time I got to Chapter 3, I told myself I was going to finish it just to leave a review about how much I disliked it.

The pacing was painful at points. Going into point-by-point vague descriptions of fighting techniques that did nothing to paint a picture in my head, but took up vast stretches of words, left me beyond bored.

But I think it was around the 5th or 6th chapter that the pacing started to speed up. The whiny prince slowly began to transform from a character I abhorred to someone I merely disliked. The main character's motivations were always sort of alien - the total loyalty to the throne, and even when he questioned it, you got the feeling he felt strongly about the need to preserve the royal lineage.

Off in no-man's land, away from anywhere that mattered, the first part of the book that made me feel something deep and profound had nothing to do with either of the two main characters. The pacing got better. I'm not sure if I just got used to the "march of the declarative sentences" (h/t to +Jefferson Smith for that phrase) and ignored them, or if the writing got better.

The climax was anticlimactic. There were pieces that didn't make sense, and again with a slight twist at the end, it fell flat because of the 1st person narrative, and the way it was written. The author ensured the reader that, yes, the protagonist would be safe, using none-too-subtle wording after each potential pitfall.

There were certainly parts of the story that were good. The middle of the book held my attention, and I blazed through it at a quick pace. But the slow start and flat ending left me feeling disappointed.

There once was an author named Ryan...

No, I won't subject you to any more terrible poetry after my last attempt.

I'm so glad this week is over. It's been a terrifically long one, with some over time put in and lots of surprises at work. Due to some unforeseen circumstances with the simulator installation, we didn't get to finalize the installation this week, as planned.

Also, we originally planned to start training on it next week, but those plans got derailed, so we're shooting for the start of January to finish both parts.

Fortunately, my wife's sprained ankle is getting better by the day. She's happy to finally get to walk the dog, and I'm glad she's feeling better!

Even so, I've been exhausted by the time the end of the day hits, and haven't gotten much in the way of writing done. Next week should be better. Quieter. More writing will be done!

The section I worked on a bit this week was fun. I mean, if I really stopped to think about it, probably it won't sound as fun to you, but I enjoyed it because it involved game mechanics for a strategy arena game that will be a fight to the death. I just love game design, so although one of my protagonists is finding out how they're going to be a pawn in the game for the amusement of the Empire's people, it's fun to go over the rules and I'm going to spend some time thinking up rules for each of the available roles: Soldier, Archer, Sneaker, Caster, Commander.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dog pictures

I failed pretty miserably this week, in terms of writing. Maybe, just maybe, I made up for it in other ways... but not in any way that fans will appreciate.

Unless you like dogs. Because we got a beagle this week.

Meet Petey!

And get this little cosmic twist (I will coin this as "The Author's Laugh." When things take a surprise direction in life at an inopportune time, I imagine being in a story where the author is chuckling at his or her cleverness) - my wife sprained her ankle on the same day we adopted the dog! On the bright side, I've been getting more exercise in, taking Petey for walks to get him used to the neighbourhood.

Her ankle was good enough to take this photo, though. :)

The pooch is originally from Kentucky, home of the jerks who toss beagles in high-kill pounds if they're no good at hunting (allow me to re-emphasize - jerks!). Petey's in good health, with a slight heart murmur (nothing to worry about). A bit overweight because the child who fostered Petey until he came to us fed him a lot of table scraps.


"Petey, meet Doggy Dog."


We can't get over what a gentle sweetheart he is. He loves the kids, he's interested in Bob, our cat, without being aggressive, and we haven't heard him bark at all. He does an excited whine when we get his leash, and he'll do a contented groan when he curls up on the couch or lays down on his bed, but that's it.

So cuddly and sweet. I call him Sweetie Petey.


He did something funny the other day. When we brought the kids down for bed, I came back upstairs to find him curled up on the couch. He looked up at me as if to say, "What? The kids are in bed. I'm totally allowed up here now."

Oooohhhh... belly rubs!


The funny thing is, we haven't ever told him he's not allowed up there. He just doesn't go up during the day, instead sticking to his bed to rest. I don't understand why he waited for them to go to bed before claiming the couch... maybe because we're teaching the kids not to bug him if he's in his bed, but anywhere else he's fair game? If so, I'm impressed he made that distinction so fast. The pet food store owner told me beagles are smart, but that sort of logic would surprise me.

Smart, affectionate, and loves kids? Awesome!
A little less love, little man!



When we first started looking for a shelter/rescue dog that was good with kids and cats a few weeks ago, we were pretty sure we'd be renaming whatever pooch we wound up with. Most of the names were pretty silly, and we thought it would be fun to let our daughter name the new family pet. And it was looking like we were going to get a beagle named Leo until he wound up with a limp the day we were supposed to meet. Fortunately, Petey had all the same great characteristics and was available through the same rescue. We all like the name. It's probably not one we would have thought of on our own, but my Opa's name was Pieter. So that's kind of cool.

Happy to have a new home (and ear scritches)


So I may or may not get any writing done this coming week. Between being on antibiotics I have to wake up at 4am to take, most of the household chores, and a new dog to walk, I'm pretty tired. But I'll try to get at least a bit of writing done.

New simulator car!


Oh, and we're getting a new simulator installed at work, so add to the chaos. Fun times ahead!

I'll end this with a happy note! Black Friday was good to me. I sold some more copies of A Noble's Quest at heavy discount (still on for just 99 cents until Monday). Yay for new readers!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

40k


Nope, I'm not talking about Warhammer 40k. I've just passed this mark for word count in A Hero's Birth this week!

Thinking ahead about where the story's going, I can only use one word to describe the plight of my protagonists: Grim. Every time I give them something, I take more away. Any time you think they're getting what they want, the cost is too great. I am really beating the living hell out of my characters as I reach this benchmark.

And it's not the sort of excessive "I hurt them just to cause drama" sort of pain that I'm not really a fan of. Each piece makes sense in the story. Each hurt and pain - physical and emotional - is fully justified and plays a larger role in the story.

I know I'm biased, but I feel like this is going to be an amazing ending to the trilogy. There's lots still to write, but I'm so excited about it that I won't be surprised if I overshoot my word count goals almost every week (I've already done 1000 extra words this week).

That said, I received news that the last round of edits for A Wizard's Gambit hit a bit of a snag due to circumstances beyond my Aunt's control, but I should be getting them early in the new year. It's unfortunate that I won't get it out for the Christmas season. I might wait to officially release it in March or April, when it will have a chance to pick up some sales. For those people who already helped me out with the Indiegogo campaign, you'll get your copies as soon as I'm done editing. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: The Between

The Between, by +Lisa Cohen 

3/5 stars

Blurb: 


High school senior, Lydia Hawthorne, is less than grateful when Oberon has her snatched from the mortal world and she finds out she's actually Fae. And not just any Fae, but a trueborn with enough inherent magic to tip the balance between Oberon and Titania's warring Bright and Shadow courts.

But that's their game and she doesn't want to play by their rules. Together with Clive Barrow, a Bright Court Fae with embarrassing family ties to the mortal world, Lydia fights to regain her old life, fueling her magic with the very human power of love and loss, challenging the essential nature of Faerie itself.

Review: 


I bought this book quite a while ago with a portion of an Amazon gift card that I'd earned. I was looking to support indie authors with it, so when I put the call out for book suggestions, Lisa sent me a link to the book. It sounded interesting, so I picked it up.

Between that time and now, she also brought out Derelict, which I scooped up, read, and loved [my review of Derelict]. After enjoying that story tremendously, I had high expectations for The Between.

And it was an okay story. To be honest, I almost put it down part way through chapter 1. Everything felt too familiar. The character in the story made several references to The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, aiding in the overly familiar themes. Young girl has an immortal, sullen stalker... Angel from Buffy, anyone? It also had a bit of a Matrix vibe.

And I would have put it down if the end of the chapter hadn't caught my attention. What was going on with the iron key fob? So I continued reading, got to the end of chapter 2, and so on and so forth, eventually getting more invested in the story. There were some great elements in it, but that sense of familiarity never really went away, either.

I found the ending sort of confusing. In a faerie world where pretty much anything goes, I didn't understand what Lydia did, how she did it, or what the long-term ramifications were. It didn't feel closed to me - like there was a chapter missing between the last two.

It was an entertaining read, for the most part, so I still give it 3/5 stars, despite the things I didn't like. But I think I'll give the sequel a pass since I'm not really invested in this book, and wait for the sequel to Derelict (which I'm super excited about!).