Category Archives: fantasy

Going to the Dark Side

IMG_0180Summer is a wonderful time of the year here in the Northwest. We have cooled off to high seventies in temperature, and other than gardening, I have time to read out on my shady deck under tall pines.

Lately, I have been restless, trying to find a good cutting-edge future science fiction tale. I dove into cyber punk with mixed results in Gibson’s The Peripheral and Charles Stross’s HaltinG StatE. (See previous blog for further comments).

Since I have been advertising my books on different websites, also with mixed results, I decided to download a few free and discounted books from Freebooksy and Sweetfreebooks. In my several marketing campaigns, Freebooksy and more recently the Midlist have given me the best results. The vaunted Fussy Librarian and Book Gorilla have cost me money while delivering poor sales. Having said that, other authors claim good results from them. Once again, various factors of timing, cover, taste, and reader who just wanted a time travel book at that moment, come into play.

Post HumanSo I chose the Post Human Series by David Simpson, Mirrored Time J.D. Faulkner and Star Wanderers by Joe Vasice. Why? The Post Human series had far future humans with transhumanism where humans are using technology and science to evolve past being human. Also, there was a suggestion of inter-dimensional realities that intrigued me. I’ll admit that so far the story is chock full of future science and action. The writing flows well with few grammar or punctuation errors.

The early episodes, however, are short and choppy, skipping over large spans of time. All that I could deal with, and did, until I got snagged on the changing point of views. Rapidly switching point of view with no warning or break is a new writer’s curse, and often the writer isn’t aware of what he’s doing until it’s pointed out to him. In this case, three pov jumps in one paragraph, and I put the book down. I may pick it back up later because of the interesting ideas and technology.Mirrored Times

Sometimes I’m not strong of will and cross over to the dark side. When the temperature hit over ninety last week, I reached for chocolate Haagen Daas to cool off my mouth and make my taste buds dance.

What diet?

At the same time, I reached for a fantasy in the form of Mark Lawrence’s The King of Thorns sitting soKing of Thorns seductively on my reading table. I had read his Prince of Fools and liked it. The reviews said King of Thorns was even better. I would be traveling into the realm of dark fantasy and knew it.

Now, there is also a Prince of Thorns that you should read first, but like chocolate Hagen Daas, I didn’t mind not having another flavor at the moment and confused the earlier book with Prince of Fools.

King of Thorns is a can’t-put-down book. And that’s just what I wanted. The writing is gorgeous with gasping wit, heart-pounding action, and tear-filled emotion. A bit gritty, but bearable.

You continue the life of Jorge Ancrath who at age nine has vowed to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother, and punish his father for not doing so. Now at age eighteen, Prince of thornshe is King of Renar, having taken the land through slaughter and death from his evil uncle. Jorge is not a delicate lad. He’s on a mission to rule the world and doesn’t play by the rules.

The story begins outside his castle where he is surrounded by thousands of the Prince of Arrow’s men. Orrin Oildan, Prince of Arrow, also hungers to be Emperor and sweeps kingdoms into his hand as he marches victoriously across the land until he reaches Jorge’s rough castle. Unlike Jorge, who is beset by sorcerers at every turn and considered mean and ruthless, Orrin is the fair-haired ruler whom everyone calls great and good. Every sorcerer and witch prophesies the triumph of the Prince of Arrows for the Emperor’s throne until Jorge is weary of hearing it. But it doesn’t slow him down a whit.

The book jumps back and forth in time, starting with Jorg’s wedding day, and then returning four years into the past. There he travels with his band of disreputable friends across the land from one wild adventure to another. Adventure and wedding flip back and forth moving closer in time as the book progresses.

Clever, haunted, and powerful, Jorge has the touch of necromancy in his fingers and carries a dangerous box of memories everywhere he goes. Trying to save a young fire Mage, he also learns to play with fire.

There are also hints of science fiction within the fantasy-flavored tale when Jorge refers to “the Builders” who seem to be great men from Earth’s past. He meets a holograph who is a downloaded personality of a past scientist. The holograph tends a forgotten machine deep under Jorge’s maternal uncle’s castle. Along the way, Jorge also accumulates artifacts from the past that become important to his survival.

My only complaint with the story is that in two critical instances, the author uses my own tricky plot twist to escape an almost impossible situation. One I use in Caught in Time when the bandits try to rob and rape Rowyna, and the other in A Dangerous Talent for Time when Brand de Fyre Elitas, like Jorg Ancrath, faces overwhelming odds in a battle.

Not fair!

Mark Lawrence will be remembered for the plot twist over me, I’m sure. Just like, since July 15, another author has come out with the title Caught in Time. The second one came out last year, well after my publication. (Sound of moaning and hair-pulling)

Oh well, I liked it when I wrote it, and I liked it again in Mark Lawrence’s story. In fact, I liked his whole story a lot. It made the chocolate ice cream go down so cool and sweet, as I slipped over to the dark side.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Cutting Edge Science ideas, downloaded personalities, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, fantasy, fantasy series, genetic manipulation, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Noir Fantasy, science fiction, science fiction series, Transhumanism, Wizards and magic

Discovering New Fantasy Authors

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Part of marketing is not only connecting with your readers but connecting with other authors. To that end I have discovered a new exciting fantasy author and asked her if I could do an interview. She graciously said, “yes” so here it is for your enjoyment.

Interview with D. Wallace Peach

 SWM: I have recently read a new fantasy author that I find exciting and different. She recently interviews me at http:www.mythsofthemirror and now I want to return the favor. As a science fiction author, I wanted to know what made her decide to write and why fantasy? So I asked her.

DWP: Hi Sheron. Thanks for inviting me to gab about books and writing – something I never get tired of doing!Diana

When I was a teenager, I actually tried my hand at a book. I wrote eighty pages with an old manual typewriter and gobs of White-Out. As often happens to our dreams, life got in the way, and it wasn’t until much later that writing reemerged as a possibility. My husband and I were living in Vermont when he took a yearlong job in Connecticut on our way to Oregon. By then the kids were grown and I had two successful careers behind me. I used that interim year to try two things I’d only dreamed of: I flipped a house and wrote a book. Well, one house-flip was plenty, but I’m working on book #9.

Why fantasy? I’ve had a special affection for the genre since reading Tolkien as a teenager. Add to that, I’m a lazy person and thought that fantasy would save me the hassle of research. I had the terrific idea that if I didn’t know something, I could just make it up. Needless to say, I was clueless. I spend hours researching the minutest details in order to bring my worlds to life.

SWM: What kind of fantasies do you write?

sunweilderDWP: You won’t find elves, dwarves, and quests for magic amulets in my books (at least not at this point). I’m still experimenting with the genre, and each book is different from its predecessor. Myths of the Mirror is quite gentle in nature where The Bone Wall is a gritty, post-apocalyptic ordeal. I’m now finishing a book that overlaps “traditional” fantasy and urban fantasy.

I like writing stories with twists, unexpected elements, and complex plots. I’ve dabbled in magical time-travel and human-animal melding. About half of my books are stand-alone reads. The Dragon Soul Trilogy will be out this summer, and I’m working on the first draft of a tetralogy. My readers never know what’s coming next!

SWM: Describe your style of writing. Both how you write (daily activity) and the types of words.

DWP: I like rich, deeply-drawn characters, and though I work hard at developing compelling plots, it’s the characters who ultimately bring them to life and give them a sense of reality. When I write, I fully enter my characters’ heads and hearts. I “live” their emotional trauma and physical stress, and the real world fades away. To write with this intensity, I need big chunks of time, 6-10 hour stretches, 4-5 days per week.

Types of words? I love finding the perfect word and putting words together in interesting ways. I’m captivated not only by the meanings of words, but the sound. Even down to the number of syllables. (Yes, I get a little nutty). I read my writing aloud several times in the course of editing to get the flow of the language just right. There are paragraphs that I’ll revise 20 to 30 times before I’m satisfied.

SWM: You just published The Bone Wall. Tell us a little about it.bonewall

 DWP: Basically the book is an exploration of what the world will be like 300 years after greedy corporations completely wreck it. The story plays with the idea of “brokenness:” physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. It asks whether healing is possible, and if so, what will that look like? How far do we need to fall before we risk the climb? Bone walls are the tangible, psychological, and metaphorical graveyards we build when we act without compassion.

The story follows identical twins, Rimma and Angel, who have grown up in a domed community called Heaven. When their dome fails, the remnants of a “broken world” sweep in to plunder and rape. Thrust into a savage and unfamiliar existence, Rimma and Angel take radically different approaches to survival. While Angel chooses hope, forming relationships and strengthening the communities around her, her sister, Rimma, remains blinded by vengeance and unwilling to adapt. Though their choices pull them apart, unbreakable magic prevents them from leading separate lives, until…

SWM: You’ve made a switch from traditional publishing to self-publishing. Why?myths of mirror

 DWP: I wanted more control. Working with a publisher was a great way to get my feet wet, and I don’t regret it for a moment. I needed the help, and at the same time learned quite a bit about the craft through the editing process. But traditional publishing is a slow endeavor, and I can get books to print faster if I’m not in someone else’s queue. I also wanted more control over promotions and pricing, which is key to building readership. It’s an experiment that I’m thoroughly enjoying.

 SWM: How can we find information about you and your books?

 DWP: That’s easy. I love chatting with readers and writers, so never be shy about contacting me.

All of my books are available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=d.+wallace+peach

Excerpts and links are on my website, Myths of the Mirror: http://mythsofthemirror.com/books-by-d-wallace-peach/

Follow my blog to learn about new books and promotions!: http://mythsofthemirror.com/

I’m on Goodreads as well. Here’s my Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7068749.D_Wallace_Peach

That about does it. Thanks again, Sheron, for the interview. This was fun, and I look forward to hearing from your sci-fi/fantasy fans!

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Filed under ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, fantasy, Indie Publishing, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, Self-publishing, time travel

Fantasy vs. Science fiction

photoMy writing group has a mix of both science fiction and fantasy writers, and I’m coming to some conclusions on how these two genres differ in regards to writing styles.

One differences is the extent of world building. Sure I put a map in my second book, but I just finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance tome, and he has not only an extensive map but extensive illustrations of the flora and fauna in his world, the fashion of his world, and the social hierarchy. Science fiction writers paint a world and then get on with the action; fantasy writers dally in the landscape and admire the scenery more.

Fantasy seems to be more character driven while science fiction is more plot driven. The reader doesn’t get too deep into the complex psychology of the Splinkx, whereas in Fool’s Assassin, the complex emotions of FitzWilliam is a focus for the story and provides the impact at the end.

And the science fiction writers like their high tech gadgets and cutting edge science almost as much as fantasy writers like their magic. Sometimes the two are very similar. (see sidebar quote)

In my series, there is time travel. Poof you’re here; poof, you’re there. Sorta magical.

Both may involve large battles. However, in Lord of the Rings, the battle is mostly on the ground while in in Star Wars or Star Trek, the battles are usually out in space with lots of lasers and gunships.

The enemy tends to be ugly in both genres. Whether it’s Klingons or Orcs, it’s not a pretty face. Our allies, however, are attractive. Legolas and Aragon make me drool, although we should skip the characters of George R. R. Martin as he is changing this trope a bit . Princess Leia and Hans Solo are also easy on the eyes…but the occasional hairy Wooki does pop up. And some of our friendlier aliens often exhibit odd behaviors.

In writing group, the fantasy people are always telling me to put more description in my story while I’m always asking them to stop admiring the scenery, the dress, character behavior and get on with the action and storyline.

This interplay makes for better writing on both sides of the aisle. Still, as a writer, you must recognize your genre and the style that your reader expects, and accommodate that expectation to a certain extent.

I recently read a blog by Tara Sparling and even though it is dated, the numbers are interesting. It’s data on the best selling books of 2012 with charts and graphs. Check it out here: http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2013/08/21/2012-bestselling-book-data-visualised/ 

Words of RadianceThis week I finished Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. (Huff. Huff) The over one thousand pages looked overwhelming, but they were actually easier to do than I expected– although it entailed a few really late nights. Way of Kings is the first in this series and I reviewed that last year and really liked it. Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine.

If you like chunky epics with detailed world building, you will love this one. The characters are compelling and the magic, as ever with Sanderson, is interesting. There are three major point of view characters: the doctor’s son betrayed into slavery and clawing his way back, the king’s uncle and stalwart hero who battles both in the trenches and in the  evil court, and the abused beautiful young girl who searches for the strength to become a powerful woman. Each has a story and each interact with the others. The stories start slow, but build beautifully.Way of Kings

Sanderson writes with passion and a good storyline. That combination always makes an excellent read and is worth being a little sleep deprived at times.

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Filed under alien life forms, award winning scifi, ebook marketing, fantasy, fantasy series, magic, Marketing and selling novels, New York Times Best Sellers, Tor's Reader's Choice, Writing Critique groups

Ebook Marketing

IMG_9503Spring is coming!

I feel like dancing.

For whatever reasons, my most recent marketing program exceeded expectations. Many authors had been grumbling that free doesn’t work as well anymore…that ebook libraries are bursting at the seams with free books…And my previous marketing attempt seemed to indicate that might be true.

But if I still see an interesting free book, I grab it.

I’m just that cheap.

And if I like it, and there’s more by that author, I’m willing to pay a certain price for that reading experience. (See previous blogs)

Several readers did just that, buying up my whole series in some cases.

The key is finding a way to get your name in front of readers so they can sample your writing…get to know you.

There are a variety of “free and discounted” book websites that charge the author for displaying his/her book. The cost to the reader is giving out his email address. That’s all.

The cost to the author varies depending on the effectiveness of the website with Bookbub leading the pack. However, there’s a price to pay for the author and hurdles to leap because of their popularity. I did find that the cheaper sites are most often less effective. You get what you pay for. So you have to find a balance.

Why was this program more effective?

I think timing played an important role. Lucky for me, I didn’t realize that a winter storm was coming in to strand a large number of people in their homes where they had more time to read.

Having said that, a lot of the books sold were out of the U.S.A. Sold three in India for crying out loud. And to my Canadian readers… many, many thanks!

Readers in the U.K. are the second largest market (after U.S.A.) but also Germany, France, and Japan sold.

Also, I saw my numbers spike when I advertised on Freebooksy. An earlier website was cheaper, but sold very little even though they put out a lot of tweets. The tweets didn’t translate into sales. So that was interesting.

If you have a compelling cover and a blurb that intrigues readers; it’s key.

So, I am a supporter of Amazon and their marketing efforts because I would probably be selling a lot less without their various programs.

Win. Win.

Five Element AnthologySpeaking of winning…

Recently several writers in my group have won awards for their short stories. They are quite good at it. So in a moment of insa…enthusiasm, we decided to all write a short story. Then, some wise wit suggested each member offer an element to include in the story. We went around the table. I sagely suggested putting in an alien; others suggested a spaceship, a ghost, a conflict with a boss, and then Chelsea grinned and added a fireplace poker.

Yikes!

That’s just like her!

Now short stories are not my strength, but I actually had fun writing mine. Be forewarned, there is a strong humorous component in it. As a result we came up with seven amazing stories that we have put in an anthology called the Five Elements Anthology.

All the profits will go to the Willamette Writers literacy program Books for Kids. It’s priced at an affordable 99 cents. To do this, we had our Willamette Writers member be the publisher and collect the royalties. We are not allowed to funnel funds directly to the Association, so at a given amount, Ted will send a check to the Association in our name. It was important that we communicated with the Willamette Writers and clear the idea with them first. They have been most enthusiastic and already have mentioned the anthology in their newsletter.

You can easily get the anthology on Amazon. Just scroll down a bit since Five Elements is a popular name. You’ll see my name and the rest of the group on the dynamite front cover.

We’ve sold two already in England along with a number in good old U.S.A.

Writing a short story was so much fun, I might try another one and offer it as a special for my website readers. Stay tuned.

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Romance in Science Fiction for Valentine’s Day

photoLove is in the air. Valentine’s Day is here. Today is dedicated to recognizing the special people in our life and telling them that we love and appreciate them.

Too often we’re too busy to mention how important they are to us.

So take some time today and let them know.

You probably have it already on your agenda.

You know I’m working on marketing, so I want to make sure that you’re aware that my time travel romance, Caught in Time, will be offered free on Amazon today February 14th through the 18th.

Caught in Time Cover1.1 2Travel back in time to a medieval period…on an alien planet. Rowyna Grae is a regendered clone from the last dying time traveler and is sent into the past to kill a king who is considered the origin of those with special abilities called, Talents.

However, instead, she falls in love with him while dealing with no running water, lack of heat, a barbaric people, betrayal at the royal court, and a looming war.

Think Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court…only Rowyna Grae is no simple Connecticut Yankee and King Telluria’s court can get complicated to a young woman from the future.

Enjoy yourself. It’s FREE for a limited time only.

Currently, I am watching the Brigham Young University series by Brandon Sanderson and really am enjoying his lectures. I gave a link on a former blog. I am thinking of reading Words of Radiance since I have read and reviewed the first book of this epic fantasy, Way of Kings, already and liked it. Unfortunately, it’s over a thousand pages long. I can’t do that in a week. But I’ll probably try.Way of Kings

MistbornWord is that sequels to his Alloy of Law series will also be out later this year. So heads up there. The earlier Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine and many other fantasy readers. If you haven’t read it, you might give it a glance.

Since I’m constantly in edit mode nowadays, I bought Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown. I usually use an editor, but it helps to edit myself first before I hand it off. One of my favorite bloggers just came out with a long list of books to help the struggling writer of today and that is where I discovered this title. Check out http://www.veronicasicoe.com/blog/2015/02/writing-advice-books-list/ and her latest blog for ideas and comments.

Then, don’t forget to hug someone significant and tell them that you love them.

XXXXX

 

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Filed under Alien worlds, alloy magic, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, fantasy, fantasy series, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Mistborn series, science fiction, science fiction series, Self-publishing

Best Selling Fantasy

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Marketing: the bane of the Independent Author. So, yes, I’m marketing again. From February 14 through 18, I’m offering Caught in Time free through Amazon KDP Select. This is the first book in the Alysian series. The last time I did this was highly successful and many readers continued on and bought a number of the other books in the series. Each story is different and can stand alone, but all continue in the Alysian Universe. See my author’s page for summaries on each. http://www.AlysianUniverse.com

http://www.amazon.com/Sheron-Wood-McCartha/e/B0045K0HD6/ 

Since I did this back in May 2014, Amazon has come out with their Kindle Unlimited program. This is a similar business model to Netflix, in that you pay a fee of $9.99 per month for unlimited downloads of novels that have signed up for KDP Select. So not everyone is in the pool, but since it’s Amazon, the pool is more like a Lake Erie size body of water.

I have been hearing that the Kindle Unlimited program has impacted Ebook sales negatively, but my information has not been quantified. What has been quantified is the information in the following link, which you might find interesting.

 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/getting-your-book-discovered-2015-readers-have-omar-luqmaan-harris

What I have noticed personally is KOLL/KUL (Prime free sales and Kindle Unlimited) have quadrupled for my books while standard sales have dropped. This could be a seasonal phenomenon or a result of Kindle Unlimited. Are we having yet another seismic shift in how books are sold? Stay tuned.

Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonThis week I read The Goblin Emperor and really enjoyed it. Okay, yes, it’s fantasy, but occasionally I take a break.

Because this is a TOR book, I found it in the library. Readers often find books by legacy publishers free through the library, but may have to pay for independently published books (who are not in the library catalog) from online storefronts…(Amazon, Kobo, Nook, etc.) A groundswell of online websites such as Booksy.com, now promote eBooks and charge the author an advertising fee. For the subscribed reader, they send announcements of recently discounted books via e-mail on a daily basis. Caught in Time will be featured on Booksy February 18th and link to Amazon where it will be free. I plan to compare the other free dates of 14-17 and see if this type of promotion is worthwhile.

Okay, back to my review.goblin

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison concerns a part goblin, part elf, named Maia who so far has lived his entire life exiled by Varenechibel the Fourth, his father, the Emperor of Ethuveraz. He is the youngest son, tainted by Goblin blood, and with three half brothers ahead of him in line for the throne, no one thought to prepare him for rule. In fact, he was shunned and abused. So when father and all three half brothers are killed in an airship crash, Maia finds himself called to court to be crowned the new emperor and burdened by layers of court dress, heavy jewelry, and no idea of what to do. Isolated with no friends, Maia must quickly figure out the politics of court, the etiquette necessary to function and the wisdom to rule justly.

Before long, Maia also discovers that his father and half-brothers’ deaths were no accident. The airship was tampered with. The crash was murder.

Whoever is behind the assassinations most likely is plotting to kill him next. Someone is out to seize the power of the throne and takeover the Goblin Empire. But who? And how can he/she be stopped?goblin-shaman

The struggle that 17 year old Maia goes through to untangle the hidden agendas and lines of power in the royal court are fascinating. Isolated, inexperienced, ignorant, Maia is endearing as he tries to be a good ruler, worthy of the crown against overwhelming circumstances.

Deftly drawn emotion, not overdone, but touching and enveloping, pervades the story and draws the reader into the world of Maia and the royal court. Being emperor is hard. Just learning the outrageous names and family lineages tasks not only Maia, but also the reader. (see father’s name above to start)

Still the heart and courage of the story makes me recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy…especially stories about goblins and elves.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, fantasy, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Self-publishing

A Foolish Fantasy

IMG_0174I am a summer girl, consequently  I morn the passing of Summer. Still, Fall has gorgeous weather in the northwest, and the tempo is picking up as I get ready to publish my next book, Someone’s Clone. It is now in the hands of several Beta readers worldwide. In the next couple of weeks, it will be back in my hands, full of excellent suggestions and corrections. I’m on the final lap toward publication of my most favorite book yet. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I am trying to put together a marketing plan for the Fall season and sort through what may be interesting reading to suggest for my blogs.

This week I read Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb. This book forms a good contrast to last week’s Cibola Burn. Cibola Burn is action packed and straight forward science fiction. In it you have aliens, planets, ships and all the trappings of a classic science fiction novel. The reader becomes involved in the characters, but Fool’s Assassin is heavily character driven with intervals of action and a barely developing plot.Assassin's Fool

It has been twenty years since Robin Hobb’s Farseer series first came out. Not expecting much when I first read it, I loved it; especially the first few. Unfortunately, in this book, Hobb spends a lot of the early chapters trying to give you backstory with a lot of telling. Each chapter starts with a letter and the action is really slow at the beginning. But because I liked the character of FitzChivarlry so much, I stuck with it, and it paid off.

FitzChivalry, the bastard son of the king’s brother, has given up his role as king’s assassin and now lives quietly with his true love Molly and her brood as Tom Badgerlock, country squire. That is until one night pale skinned strangers show up and after they are gone, a messenger has disappeared, most likely murdered.

Tom/FitzChivalry reminisces about his closest friend, the Fool, and wonders why he hasn’t contacted him throughout the years. He worries that the messenger may have carried important news from his old friend. He has reason to worry.

Meanwhile, even though Molly is now advanced in years, she claims she is unexpectedly pregnant. After two years of claiming she is with child, many around her feel she has lost her mind until she finally gives birth to an incredibly small infant that matures very slowly and is mute and considered brain damaged by most.

Hobb portrays the pain of a loving father who faces criticisms from the rest of the world against his precious, supposedly backward, daughter. He tries to do his best for her while his dreams for her golden life wither with her silence and her fragile size. Despite what others say, he still loves her deeply.

And after Molly’s death, he stumbles around mired in grief, abandoning the child in his despair until his oldest daughter tries to wrench her away and wakes him from his stupor. His old mentor asks him to take in and protect a young, annoying, high born girl and another royal bastard, much like Tom was. Both of their lives have been threatened by family, and they are in danger. New servants, tutors and renovations stir life into the household and bring conflict and change.

Tom’s assassin’s training comes in handy again as the Fool and his people threaten his household, and those he holds dear.

You must read the first books in the Farseer Series to fully appreciate this one. The ending does make it clear that this is just the beginning of a new trilogy…but it will leave up you gasping and eager to read the next adventure.Assassin's ApprenticeRoyal Assassin

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The Anti Hero in Fantasy

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What is happening to the hero who is firm of jaw and pure of heart? Where is the man who faces dangerous odds in order to rescue fair damsel?

Lately he’s the clever, disfigured dwarf (Game of Thrones), the contorted torturer (The Blade Itself), or a multi identitied spaceship (Ancillary Justice).

The Blade Itself2

And the fair damsel is an ass kicking chick with knives to spare and attitude.

The two books I read this week have both.

Prince of FoolsThe first is Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools.

Jalan Kendreth of the Red March, tenth in line to the throne, likes boozing, gambling and womanizing. He is a man of no ambition and an admitted coward and liar.

He is a royal prince, who adheres enthusiastically to the rights of royally. As he leaps out of a noble lady’s window pursued by an antagonistic older brother, he justifies his roguish actions with a wide grin.

He admits to cowardice with nary a qualm, never revealing he was running away when he ran into the surprise attack and won the war. He’s acclaimed a hero, and doesn’t hesitate to trade on the glory it brings, always forgetting to mention his true intention at the time.

He lines out his philosophy by saying, “Enjoy the world while you can, I say. A shallow enough philosophy by which to live, but shallow is what I got. Besides, deep is apt to drown you.”

Through an act of sorcery, Jalan becomes entangled with a fierce Viking slave, Snorri ver Snagason who is bent on revenge for atrocities to his family. Snorri is a blonde mountain of a man with a abundant courage and a good heart that turns dark when violence taps into his “blood rage.”

Throughout the whole book Jalan is pulled along in Snorri’s wake as he struggles to free himself from their sorcerous bond. Snorri misinterprets a lot of Jalan’s actions as heroic, while Jalan recognizes the more realistic truth of his intentions. Often he tries to ply the influence of royalty only to find the farther away from court and his own country he goes, the less influence it wields. Deference turns to yawns as Jalen scrambles to find new levers with which to survive.

Prince of thornsEvidently there is a prior series that begins with Prince of Thorns set in this same universe and wildly acclaimed. The story is dark and edgy. While there are dark and edgy moments in Prince of Fools, the humor between the two men as they struggle with each other, gradually becoming fast friends, dominates the book. I loved the banter and developing friendship as the two search for release from each other. But when Jalan is told that all he has to do to be released from Snorri is to order him killed, he responds by inquiring if perchance there might be another way.

Mark Lawrence writes a thoroughly engaging story with their “buddy adventure” as the main thread. If you like your hero a bit tarnished, and your world rich with description and magic, then I recommend Prince of Fools.

 

Hunting PartyI’d never read anything by Elizabeth Moon, but I heard her name often enough. So I thought to try one of her novels. Several people in my book group offered enthusiastic suggestions, so I settled on the first in a series called Hunting Party.

Descended from a famous family of Admirals, Heris Serrano resigns her commission from the military due to mysterious circumstances that gradually are revealed. Although beneath her dignity, she hires on to captain a space yacht owned by Lady Cecelia de Marktos, a wealthy eccentric.

Lady Cecelia’s passion is riding horses, and she is bound to a hunt at Lord Thornbuckle’s, known to his peers as Bunny. Owning an entire planet, Lord Thornbuckle has recreated his version of an old English hunt. Unfortunately, before Cecelia can get away, her sister ropes her into taking along her spoiled son, Ronnie, and his three friends, George, Bubbles and Raffele. Bubbles is Lord Thornbuckle’s daughter.

Seems Ronnie, the profligate son, bedded the prince’s current mistress and then bragged about it, causing full royal fury complete with death threats. So Ronnie is put on probation and sent away with his maiden aunt and a few friends.

All the commotion has set back the schedule, and Heris is pressured to get underway without a full inspection. Only gradually, after launch, does she come to realize how lax and sloppy the former captain ran the ship. A serious problem develops into the journey that requires they put in the nearest shipyard for repairs. Heris tries her best to calm down her new employer who will miss opening day by suggesting a bet. If the repairs extend past a certain deadline, she will learn how to ride, and if they make their timetable, Lady Cecelia will learn about her ship.

Contraband is discovered as parts are replaced, causing legal delays, so Heris agrees to train on Lady Cecelia’s mechanical mount on board the ship and ride at the hunt. Cecelia relents and agrees to learn more about her yacht. The two develop a friendship.

They arrive, a bit late, but intact. Ronnie is bored by the hunt and suggests a midnight escape in Lord Thornbuckle’s flitter with a picnic at dawn. Bubbles remembers a childhood island where the family would go camping. They head there, but as they approach the island, they are waved off. When they circle back, they are shot down.

It turns out the island is being used illegally for a different kind of hunt and Heris’s former crew is involved. Now Ronnie and his friends are also in danger for their lives.

Moon turns in her version of The Hunger Games that involve an old nemesis of Heris’s and a mysterious Mr. Smith that wears boots that leave a royal print.

Plot drives this story and provides a pleasant tale with danger, friendship, intrigue and bravery. Not a wilting violet among these strong females with Heris as the kickass captain who can take charge when things become dangerous, and who has extra guns and attitude to spare.

 

 

 

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The Writing World and Critique Groups

 

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Writers’ Critique Groups

Writing about the new book publishing age, I mentioned the importance of a good critique group to help polish a self-pubbed book. My critique group has been invaluable, so I asked D. Wallace Peach to say a few words about what makes a good writing critique group.

Known to me as Diana, she has published her third book, SunWielder, which I recently reviewed, and has submitted the rest of her Myths of the Mirror Trilogy: Eye of Fire, and Eye of Blind to her publisher. So stay tuned for that sometime in 2015.

Even with an editor and Diana’s exact eye for copywriting, I believe the critique group helped make the final books of the Myths Trilogy even stronger and better.Sunwielder

So here’s what she had to say:

Diana:  “A critique group is different from a support group, though they overlap. My mother is a one-woman support group; she loves everything I’ve written since I was six. And for that reason she’s an awful person to ask for a critique.

Joining a critique group may be one of the smartest steps we can take in our careers as writers. Pointed, honest feedback is essential to learning and refining our craft. But finding the right group is like finding the right psychotherapist; sometimes you have to work at it to get a good fit. You want the truth, but in a way that’s helpful and encourages you to grow.”

Sheron: Cross mom and Aunt Susie off the list.

Diana: “Group Composition

Not all groups are alike. Some are loosey-goosey, others more formally structured. Learn as much as you can about the expectations of a group and be honest with yourself about your needs and the time commitment you’re prepared to make.

A few considerations:

  1. Not everyone in a critique group needs to work in the same genre, but there may certain drawbacks to being the only romance writer is a group of military science-fiction buffs.
  2. Four to five members is ideal, providing sufficient feedback while not overwhelming members with critiques.
  3. A mix of male and female participants is great for garnering different perspectives.
  4. Though some writers may prefer a group with equivalent experience, a mix of new and seasoned members can be extremely rewarding. New writers often bring fresh energy.
  5. If a group experience leaves you discouraged and angry, don’t stay. Groups are supposed to vitalize your love of writing, not drain your enthusiasm.

Structural Norms

How groups are run and structured varies group to group. Some meet face-to-face, others are entirely on-line. In general, guidelines for effective critiquing are the same, but I am a strong proponent of face-to-face feedback where verbal and physical cues (like smiling) augment the words we chose in our critiques. Meeting in person offers an opportunity to elaborate on comments and ask/answer questions.”

Sheron:  I like to look them in the eye when I tell them what needs fixing. Sometimes, they have a reason for the story to be that way. In addition, you should have a rule that all weaponry be left at home.

Diana:  “However a group is structured, there are generally norms related to timing, submissions and how critiques are returned to the authors. The critique group I belong to meets twice a month in person for approximately three hours and a written critique is completed between meetings. This is how we work:

  1. Via email, we distribute our submissions to other group members. Submissions are limited to 20 double space pages (with occasional exceptions).
  2. Group members critique each submission and return it via email to the writer with comments. (Word has a “comment” tool that is very helpful in this regard.)
  3. Prior to the face-to-face meeting, we review our comments so we’re prepared to discuss ideas and answer questions for the author.
  4. Meetings start with a focus on one member’s work. One at a time, readers offer additional feedback and respond to questions. The process repeats itself until all submissions have been discussed. (Set time limits for face-to-face feedback if meetings run over. Don’t skip discussing someone’s work.)Myths of the Mirror

Receiving Feedback

Rarely do two people provide the same advice, and sometimes what one person loves, another would “suggest tweaking”. Sally may be great at tracking emotional themes; Margo is the queen of punctuation. Larry gives a man’s perspective of … well, everything. Jenny adores lurid descriptions, and Katie is the verb-police. Everyone brings something to the table and the author uses what’s helpful and dumps the rest.

Sheron: This is amazing. No two people read the material the same way and just when I think all’s been “fixed,” someone makes an important comment.”

Diana: “Some writers submit first drafts, others a final product, and most something in between. What a writer turns over for critiquing will flavor what comes back. A first draft may point at awkward dialog, holes in the story, punctuation problems, word choice, and grammar. Often a first draft will benefit from a second look after the writer has smoothed the rough edges. For a “final draft” the critique may serve as a last review before the manuscript wings off to the publisher. Either way, a critique group does not eliminate the need for repeated, careful editing on part of the author.”

Sheron: Read that last sentence twice.

Diana:  “Giving Feedback

Writing is personal, and when a writer shares her work and asks for feedback, it’s an act of trust, worthy of respect. Be cognizant of your personal preferences and writing style and separate these from your critiques.

An effective critique starts by emphasizing the strengths of the work. An initial focus on the writer’s successes makes hearing suggestions easier on the ears and heart. There’s always something positive to comment on – story, scene, character, section of dialog, a description, humor, rapport, tension, punctuation, word choice, grammar, pace. A critique is successful if a writer feels good about his or her work and eager to tackle the hurdles.

As much as possible provide suggestions so that the writer gets the gist of your comment. If you identify a weak verb, give a few suggestions for stronger ones. If a sentence is awkward, suggest a possible rewrite. If you think a section of dialog feels stilted, explain why. If you think the character’s emotion is inappropriate, explain your perspective.

You may end up critiquing the equivalent of a chapter or two every two weeks. Remember that this isn’t a typical pace for pleasure reading. A book may seem as though it’s dragging, but that may be more a result of the group’s pace than the book’s.”

Sheron:  This is true if the work is long. Or you meet with lots of time between the critique.Melding of Aeris

Diana:  “When we critique another’s writing we are commenting on the work, not the person. The most helpful criticism is specific to the piece. It points to a word, scene, or paragraph and explains what isn’t working for the reader. Then the writer can see exactly where the challenge lies, learn about another’s perspective and make a choice. Broad negative statements aren’t only signs of a poorly crafted critique, they’re unhelpful and demoralizing. Broad positive statements are fine, but grounding positive feedback with examples shows the writer the strengths he can build on.”

These are great comments and thank you to Diana.

BTW: Diana and I will be signing our books at Jan’s Paperback Saturday, August 9 at 1:00 p.m.

We invite you to join us there.

Address: 18095 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy, Aloha Check out their website@ http://www.JansPaperbacks.com

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Calling on Angels

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If you’re one of my hard scifi readers, this week my writing has taken me off that path a bit.

I will return. (scramble, scramble)

Currently, I’m writing about one of my favorite characters–Angel. Angel is the offspring of two aliens who live on Alysia in seclusion. These are Enjelise that at one time protected the humans of Alysia and now have “evolved.” Modeled on our concept of angels, Angel doesn’t have wings like his parents, but he has been tasked with protecting Richard Steele’s daughter, Tempest, and it’s quite the challenge.

And fun to write about.

 While I was contemplating what to blog about, I recalled Sharon Shinn who wrote a whole series on a planet where angels ruled.

 Often as an author writes, great creative ideas seem to pop out of nowhere. I loved writing about the Enjelise and was rolling right along with them when I remembered Sharon Shinn and her series, and was surprised at how much they unconsciously influenced me.

 Where do we get our inspiration from? Sometimes I think an idea or concept is rolling around out there in the ether just waiting for creative people to harvest it, and at other times it’s buried in the subconscious and bubbles to the surface when needed.

 Well, I was bubbling.

 So I wanted to at least mention this author in case you’re inclined to this style of story.

Because I am.

I first read Sharon because the title of a particular book was so compelling, and then the reviews were also good.

The Shape-Changer's WifeThe Shape Changer’s Wife was such an intriguing title I wanted to read the book to see what the author would do with it.

 So authors, your title is important. It should draw in a reader.

 I enjoyed the story of Aubrey who decides he wants to learn more than his current University’s training offers and seeks out the most accomplished wizard of shape changing, Glyrenden. Odd events and and dark rumors cause Aubrey to try to figure out what is going on in the wizard’s household. Often Glyrenden goes off for long periods of time and leaves his wife, Lilith, alone. She carries a sad secret and Aubrey tries to help her. As he helps her, he discovers a lot about himself.

Archangel Because I liked that story, Sharon Shinn’s name came onto my radar screen, and then I discovered her Samaria Series. Samaria is a world dominated by angel like creatures that are beautiful, have wings, live high in the mountains and sing. Once each year the reigning Archangel and angels gather with the lesser humans and sing a chorale praising Jovah so that God will not smite the planet. The praising must be a duet of the Archangel and his wife.

Gabriel is the newly selected Archangel who will be elevated at the next celebration. Several challenges face him. First, the previous Archangel has created a division of poor and rich upon what had been an egalitarian society. The world is worse off, but Raphael doesn’t want to relinquish his power and step down and plots to thwart Gabriel’s election. Meanwhile Gabriel has delayed in seeking a wife and when he finally visits the oracle to learn who she must be, he finds out his chosen is a slave in an oppressed culture who dislikes the angels and is quick to tell him what is wrong with the world. Neither one is happy about the choosing and would rather marry another, but to save the planet, they try to make it work. However, Gabriel’s delay means he has only six months to do that.

The clock is ticking…and no one is co-operating.

Jovah's Angel An interesting love story with several twists and turns.

The series continues with the second book in the series, Jovah’s Angel and concludes with the Alleluia Files.Alleluia Files

 With the Alleluia Files, Shinn takes a fantasy series and sharply twists it into science fiction. Here’s where I had forgotten Shinn’s book and when I saw her name recently on a new series, it all started to resurface. In The Alleluia Files, a rebel Jacobite, Tamar believes the “God” of their world is more technology than deity and searches for the files of an angel, Alleluia, who proposes that a satellite ship circles Samaria controlling the weather and interacting with the angels when they sing, fulfilling the role of “God.” The current Archangel, Bael, is out to squash this idea and has ordered all Jacobites killed. But Tamar teams up with Jared, an Angel with an open mind, to discover the truth. This is an interesting finale to the trilogy.

 Sharon Shinn flavors her stories of Samaria with bible references and weaves a complex world of angels and humans, of love and conflict that you may enjoy.

Thirteeth House I also want to commend her Twelve House series. Here she revisits magic and shapeshifters. I loved The Thirteenth House, Reader and Raelynx,  Mystic and Rider and Dark Moon Defender–to name a few.Royal Airs

And recently out, her new Elemental Series, Troubled Waters, the first in the series, came out in April 2013 and the newest offering is Royal Airs out last November. In this series she works with the five elements that control everyone’s life in her created society. The society is full of court intrigue and dangerous liaisons and could take place in any of the European courts from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

Once again, an intriguing world with magic and romance, danger and dark deeds.

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