Monthly Archives: December 2013

A review of my 2013 goals

happy new year

So at the beginning of 2013 I made some writing goals for the year. In 2012 I wrote about 75,000 words, which while not that impressive was more than I’d ever written previously. I resolved in 2013 to try to reach 100,000 words. The first half of the year was awful. I barely found time to write 250 words a day. But then things changed in July with a different job and I was able to start cranking out 800 words a day, five days a week. So I didn’t *quite* reach my goal. My total for the year was 98,000 words. THAT CLOSE! But I’m happy because it’s been my best year for writing ever. Note that this only includes fiction. Not blog posts, not reviews, not even editing. Just new words on stories and novels.

Other things I did in 2013:

  • Published the print version of my debut novel Heart of the Witch.
  • Wrote and published the second Cathy Pembroke tale, Fairies At Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Published novella Dreams and Nightmares
  • Wrote and published an erotica short story under my other nom de plume
  • Wrote 43,000 words of a new book (romance) which will also be under that nom de plume
  • Finished my second fantasy novel, edited it, and prepared the ARCs for review–Journey To Landaran: Book One of the Spirit Mage Saga
  • Started the second book of the Spirit Mage Saga (just on Chapter One, but still)
  • Wrote four other short stories, two of which are currently being looked at for magazines and/or anthologies. One of these is at Tor.com and has been there for 4 months. They say on their website they can take up to 6 months, and if your story has been with them for 3 months or more then it’s in the second read pile. So I’m crossing my fingers here.

So it’s been a busy year! For 2014, I plan to keep increasing my output. My goal is to write 125,000 words in 2014. If I actually maintain the productivity that I’m doing right now, I actually could go as high as 175,000 but I don’t want to freak myself out. (Still that would be an awesome number to reach!)

I want to finish that romance book as quickly as possible, get at least halfway through the second Spirit Mage book, and write at least five short stories/novellas.

How did everyone else do on their goals?

Happy New Year!!!!

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Author Interview: James Chalk

Normally I do my author interviews on Thursdays, but James let me know that this week he’s doing a free promotion of his stories on Amazon, so I’m sharing this early. You can find out more about James Chalk on Goodreads here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7374777.James_Chalk

James

The stories and other links:

The Meat Market: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GFC8BPI/

Cyborg Spell Shop: A Harkon Colony Short Story: http://www.amazon.com/Cyborg-Spell-Sh…

The Twelve Children Of Christmas: A Baihu Short Story: http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Children…

Website: http://JamesChalkBooks.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Chalk/e/B…

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/JamesChalkBooks

 

1. What first made you want to write?

I don’t think I ever really thought I wanted to write. I always found it difficult. However, my head is filled with ideas, truths, and wishes and my heart is bursting with the need to share them. I have felt this way since I was a teenager. I was always an avid reader and I firmly believe in the power of fiction to convey truth and transform society. I believe in storytelling and the inspiration it can bring. Once I finally started writing, though, I learned it isn’t as difficult as I had thought. I really enjoy the unfolding of the plot with the constant twists and surprises my characters throw at me.

2. I understand you write science fiction. What about this genre interests you?

I’ve been in love with science and science fiction ever since I was a teenager. If you count fantasy in with the genre, my interest goes all the way back to early childhood fairy tales. I’m old enough to have watched the original Star Trek TV show. I was awakened by my parents to witness Neil Armstrong’s historic stroll on the Moon. I even had promo tickets from Pan American Airlines for the first commercial flights to the Moon. Early on, I recognized that science fiction has tremendous potential for inspiring innovation and to effect societal change. I believe that mankind’s only long-term hope for survival is to develop the necessary technology to colonize our solar system, and perhaps beyond. Ultimately, we either get off this planet or we doom its ecology and ourselves with it.

3. Your novella, “Meat Market” is listed as a science fiction tale, but it has a rather suggestive cover. What led you towards this kind of look?

“The Meat Market” is the first in a series featuring my Jonathan Harkon character. Ideally, I would have preferred a cover that featured Jonathan, but I haven’t yet found an artist to work with and develop a consistent style for the series and enhance my vision of the future. However, either way the cover would still have provocative elements. “The Meat Market” is an action-suspense thriller that happens to take place in the future. The protagonist gets caught up in an underground sex-slave operation and uncovers an even more terrible truth behind it. I chose a cover that conveys a feel for the world he has been plunged into, without being too explicit. My book is not even close to erotica, but it is adult and could offend some people. I hope that between the book description and the cover, those who would be offended have been fairly warned.

4. Who is your favorite writer and why?

When I was a teenager, Robert A. Heinlein was my favorite because of his liberal ideas and gusto for life. He inspired me about the future and encouraged me toward open-minded thinking. As an adult, I don’t really have a favorite. If I like the writer and I’m reading her or his book, then she or he is my favorite today.

5. What project are you working on next?

That’s an easy one. I’m working on “The Sword of Yahweh” – book two of the Jonathan Harkon adventures. It takes place in an entirely different setting than book one and will hopefully capture somewhat more of an epic fantasy feel, while still maintaining scientific plausibility and the techno-thriller pace established in the first story.

6. What kinds of information do you wish was more accessible to new writers?

There is no dearth of information out there. A plethora of websites and other publications exist providing all of the information you need. The hard part is deciding who to trust and avoiding the scams. One of the more difficult things to research is which promotional outlets would be best for targeting your specific audience. First you have to know who those people are!

7. How has your background influenced your writing?

It actually seems I have spent my entire life preparing to write science fiction. I went to engineering school specifically so that I would have a strong enough technological and scientific background to write it. It is important to me that my stories are realistic, both scientifically and socially. I spent decades working in science and engineering, but I didn’t ignore the rest of life. I raised my daughters and built a life of love and commitment with my wife. I became an expert martial artist and a whitewater kayaking instructor. I volunteered my time teaching others and helping with wounded veterans. I exposed myself to the wonderful variety of ideas one can only accumulate through inquisitive interaction with others. I studied politics and society for years before daring to spin a tale. I can only hope that my maturity and experience informs my stories and that I can pass along some small measure of my passion for truth and social justice, without mucking up the pace and enjoyment of the plot.

8. What advice do you have for other writers?

A huge secondary market is emerging that seeks to profit off of the independent writer/publisher. Some of these services are very valuable and others are a waste of money and time. I wish that new writers had a more reliable way of telling the difference. So much depends on the specifics of the situation and the people involved. My advice is trust your conscience and your intuition. Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch, so when someone offers you one, look for the hidden price. Otherwise, don’t let your marketing efforts steal too much time away from writing. Be authentic and always ask your characters what they would do.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me.

Author Interview: Andrea Barbosa

This week I’m interviewing Andrea Barbosa, from Brazil. She’s worked in tourism and is debuting her first novel, a “surrealist literary fiction” novel. You can find out more about Andrea at Goodreads here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7104131.Andrea_Barbosa

andrea

1. What first inspired you to write?

Writing has been a childhood dream for as long as I can remember, but I’m not
sure there was a trigger. I always loved to read and consequently started to
write my own stories when I was still in elementary school.

2. You describe your book as “surreal literary fiction.” How would
you describe this genre?

The book could be classified under general fiction, however it has some
elements of surrealism imbued in it, specifically at the end of the story.
Literary fiction is a genre where the focus is on the “inner story”
of the characters who drive the plot with detailed motivations to elicit
“emotional involvement” in the reader, the tone is serious and often
darker than general fiction and it touches on universal dilemmas. Massive Black
Hole has some of these elements and also plays with surrealism, as it features
the element of surprise.

3. You deal with some pretty heavy topics in the book, including suicide. What
made you want to tackle these issues?

Because the genre touches on universal dilemmas, it was important that some
touchy subjects were explored. It had to do with the theme in order to elicit
emotional response and to offer the readers the characters’ perspective.

4. Tell me about the book.

At 18, Cibele, a student from Rio de Janeiro, dreams of a life in New York and
moves to the big Apple as an au pair girl, where she meets the precocious Amy,
a young scholar whose goal in life is to study sciences and astrophysics. When
they meet Agatha, an ambitious young woman from Texas who wants to become a
famous fashion model, their lives are weaved together and they become friends.
While trying to achieve their goals, they question the meaning of life, death
and the existence of hell, and their friendship ultimately turns into a maze of
betrayal, jealousy and selfishness.

5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?

I don’t have one favorite writer. I like several and also different genres, so
it’s very hard to point to one. I like Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino because
he wrote reality with a sense of humor; I like Joyce Carol Oates because I
consider her a great surrealist literary writer, for example.

6. What are you working on next?

I’m close to publishing a collection of poetry, hopefully to come out still
before the year’s end, or beginning of next year. I’m also working on another
novel.

7. How do you think the self-publishing phenomenon impacts the literary genre?

There are pros and cons, but mostly I’d say pros. The reason is you can find a
very interesting story or a good writer that you wouldn’t if their work was
rejected over and over. You have the opportunity to read different genres and
find out what people are writing about. There’s a lot of sifting to do though,
but it’s a most exciting exploration.

8. What advice do you have for other writers?

Don’t give up. Read and write. That’s the only way to improve your style.

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for your great blog. I really
appreciate your time!

BLOG Tour and Review: The Sorcery Code

Today Starts the Review Tour & Giveaway for

The Sorcery Code by Dima Zales!

In celebration of the big release today, author Dima Zales will also be giving away a complete signed set of his international bestselling series, The Krinar Chronicles. Enter to win via the Rafflecopter below. Be sure to stop by each day to check out the new tour stops each day for new reviews and more chances to win.

BLURB: The Sorcery Code by Dima Zales From the internationally bestselling authors who brought you the Krinar Chronicles comes a captivating tale of intrigue, love, and danger in a world where sorcery is entwined with science . . . Once a respected member of the Sorcerer Council and now an outcast, Blaise has spent the last year of his life working on a special magical object. The goal is to allow anyone to do magic, not just the sorcerer elite. The outcome of his quest is unlike anything he could’ve ever imagined – because, instead of an object, he creates Her. She is Gala, and she is anything but inanimate. Born in the Spell Realm, she is beautiful and highly intelligent – and nobody knows what she’s capable of. She will do anything to experience the world . . . even leave the man she is beginning to fall for. Augusta, a powerful sorceress and Blaise’s former fiancée, sees Blaise’s deed as the ultimate hubris and Gala as an abomination that must be destroyed. In her quest to save the human race, Augusta will forge new alliances, becoming tangled in a web of intrigue that stretches further than any of them suspect. She may even have to turn to her new lover Barson, a ruthless warrior who might have an agenda of his own . . . WHERE TO PURCHASE THE SORCERY CODE {Click to Purchase}

MAP OF KOLDUN:
Map of Koldun from The Sorcery Code

Map of Koldun from The Sorcery Code

ABOUT THE AUTHOR DIMA ZALES: Dima Zales Dima Zales is a full-time science fiction and fantasy author residing in Palm Coast, Florida. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked in the software development industry in New York as both a programmer and an executive. From high-frequency trading software for big banks to mobile apps for popular magazines, Dima has done it all. In 2013, he left the software industry in order to concentrate on his writing career. Dima holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from NYU and a dual undergraduate degree in Computer Science / Psychology from Brooklyn College. He also has a number of hobbies and interests, the most unusual of which might be professional-level mentalism. He simulates mind-reading on stage and close-up, and has done shows for corporations, wealthy individuals, and friends. He is also into healthy eating and fitness, so he should live long enough to finish all the book projects he starts. In fact, he very much hopes to catch the technological advancements that might let him live forever (biologically or otherwise). Aside from that, he also enjoys learning about current and future technologies that might enhance our lives, including artificial intelligence, biofeedback, brain-to-computer interfaces, and brain-enhancing implants. In addition to his own works, Dima has collaborated on a number of romance novels with his wife, Anna Zaires. The Krinar Chronicles, an erotic science fiction series, has been a bestseller in its categories and has been recognized by the likes of Marie Claire andWoman’s Day. If you like erotic romance with a unique plot, please feel free to check it out, especially since the first book in the series (Close Liaisons) is available for free everywhere. Keep in mind, though, Dima Zales’s books are going to be much more PG 13 . . . at least that’s the plan for now. Anna Zaires is the love of his life and a huge inspiration in every aspect of his writing. She definitely adds her magic touch to anything Dima creates, and the books would not be the same without her. Dima’s fans are strongly encouraged to learn more about Anna and her work at http://www.annazaires.com. Connect with Author Dima Zales: Facebook | Twitter | Google | Goodreads | LinkedIn | YouTube | Blog

GIVEAWAY:

Author Dima Zales is giving away a complete signed set of his international bestselling series, The Krinar Chronicles.

Enter to win via the Rafflecopter link below!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MDI4NDRjMWMzNmI1ZmYwOWY3MGQ4NWMxZjA1YjczOjIy/

The Sorcery Code by Dima Zales

The Sorcery Code Review Tour is Presented by Beyond Words Book Tours

Beyond Words Book Tours

And my review!

I received a free copy in exchange for a fair review.

I found this an enjoyable read. From the very first page it reminded me of the set up of Weird Science–remember that movie?  It’s the one where a geek decides to create a perfect girlfriend in the form of a robot. (She would have made a great fembot in Austin Powers as well).

Well, this book starts with a rather similar scenario. Meet nerdy sorcerer Blaise, who has been sequestered in his tower for over a year working on creating the perfect thinking object of magic.

What he gets instead is a young beautiful woman with a mind like a computer and unprecedented magical powers.

I found the beginning a little comical because of this. The beauty and innocence of this conjured female against the extreme awkwardness of the sorcerer was funny. I worried that it might become a geek boy’s dream come true, but the action swiftly moved to other things from there. Through it, the reader learns the politics of the land as well as the social issues afflicting everyone.

This was a quick read, and there’s plenty more to come before the tale is over. I liked quite a few aspects of Dima’s world, including the use of mathematics for magic. The book appeared fairly well edited and I didn’t find any glaring issues to detract from the reading.

I give this a four out of five stars.

Men in Hoods; Chicks in Chainmail

This came up in a Goodreads discussion in one of the fantasy groups.

Ever noticed these days that fantasy books seem to have an overabundance of the hooded figure? Since when did this become so popular?

Here are a few examples:

hood1hood2EmperorsKnife_Press_Corrected02.inddhood4crowntower-2-5hood6

Now I like cloaks just fine; in fact, I own two. But like any fad, too much of something isn’t a good thing. It’s like vampires. I’m sick of vampires. I want a vampire-free diet for the next ten years. And of these fantasy covers, I ask the question.

Is it REALLY that hard to draw a face???

Some readers have expressed that they don’t like drawings/pictures of the characters, because so often the illustrators get it wrong. They don’t read the book and know that Mr. Hero has a mustache. Or green eyes. Or a mole on his left cheek.

I understand their concern–that’s why the other big trend for a lot of books lately is the central symbol with no scenes or characters depicted at all. (See Hunger Games, Allegiant, Game of Thrones, and pretty much any Danielle Steele novel). But others of us like to see at least an attempt to visualize the characters. I allowed the artist of my first book to showcase the demon rather than the main character–you only get to see the back of Zerrick Dhur. But at least I included a frontal drawing of him inside the book. My next book prominently features the twins, Tavish and Aidah. Are they perfect representations of the characters in my head? No. But I liked them and I liked how they made the cover look.

At least the hoods aren’t completely humiliating, like all those chicks in chainmail covers from the 70’s and 80’s:

chick1chick2chick3chick4

I’m glad to say you don’t find completely unrealistic armor on girls any more. Like the attackers are ONLY supposed to hit them on their chainmail-covered breasts. (Never mind how easy it would be to disembowel their naked flat little tummies.)  Hoods are kind of cool, especially if you’re a thief or assassin and you’re trying to hide your identity.

But on the other hand, have you ever tried to walk around in a hood and be sneaky? You completely lose your peripheral vision. Not only that, it muffles your hearing, so now not only can’t you see the attacker sneaking up behind you. You can’t hear them either! So I’m really not impressed with their usefulness apart from keeping the rain and/or snow off your head.

At least they’re more practical than the chainmail bikinis.

Author Interview: Michelle Muckley

To the winners of the ARC giveaway–I have information for most of you, and copies have begun to go out. I’m still waiting for another copy to arrive so that it can be autographed and sent out. Congratulations!

This week’s interview is with Michelle Muckley, a British writer of cozy mysteries. You can find more about Michelle at Goodreads here:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6525038.Michelle_Muckley, or at her webpage: www.michellemuckley.com

identity

1. What first made you want to write a book?
I had always wanted to be a writer, and for many years had been considering and procrastinating. Finally I decided that if I wanted to be a writer there was one essential thing that I would need to do, and that was simply to start writing! The story was born from one idea, which was what would a person do to maintain their own life over that of those they love.

2. Looking at the description of your books, they seem to fit under cozy mysteries. What do you think makes a good cozy mystery?
If you write mysteries, you have to ensure that have great characters that a reader is prepared to get behind. To root for. My latest book is much more a thriller than a mystery, and it has been really important to keep up the pace, keep it moving along so that your reader feels the drama.

3. Tell me about your latest book.
Identity X is a fast past thriller that takes you on Ben Stone’s journey. He is a scientist who has just discovered the cure for genetic disease, something he was desperate to achieve in order to save his son. But after some serious celebrating he returns to his lab to find that everything has been taken, and all that is left is an empty building.

The journey through Identity X makes you question your trust, your dreams, and even those people around you. Nobody is what they seem, and as he soon realises his life is not what it seems he desperately looks around for answers. The answers he gets may not have ben what he was hoping for.

4. What was the hardest part about writing that book?
For Identity X, I used some terminology for guns which is something I know nothing about. I had a chat with one of the readers of the first ARCs and he obviously knew more about guns than me, and so we worked together to talk about my used bullets becoming slugs! I love it when my readers help me out! I am not a writer that is too proud to listen to others. I love a bit of help.

5. Who is your favorite writer, and why?
I love Stephen King. I think his stories are wonderful, and it was one of his books that I was holding in my hand when I first decided I want to be a writer. Perhaps without him it would never have happened.

6. How have your life experiences influenced you as a writer?
Every life experience I have ever had has helped to sculpt me into the writer that I am today. Your life forms the person you are, and that comes out in my stories and characters. I think if you try to hold it back too much then your writing can lose a precious edge of authenticity.

7. What are you working on next?
I am currently writing a work in progress about a woman who suffers with mental illness, and a rather dismal preoccupation with her father’s death. Doesn’t much sound like a cheery tale when I put it like that, but I am pleased with the first draft so far and it is coming on nicely. It should be finished by now, but I took a holiday to get married! Back to work starts here.

8. What advice do you have for writers?
It is really important as a writer to practice your craft. By this I mean write consistently, and do it as frequently as you can. Ideally I think you should write each day, even if it’s only for a short while, but sometimes this isn’t practical. Reading is just as important, and I love to do it. It is like research and for me if I am not reading I feel my writing is more sluggish.
From a practical point of view for somebody who wants to test their skills in the world of publishing, the best advice is to polish whatever you want to publish to the point when you cannot possibly stand to read it anymore, and until you believe it is as good as you can possibly make it. Then make a choice between traditional and self publishing, and just go for it. And whichever you choose, make sure you are tough enough to stand rejection and criticism. I have experienced both, and it is essential to ride through it if you want to succeed. Professional writers are after all, the amateurs who didn’t give up. I heard that recently. I can’t remember who said it, but I think it sums up the journey perfectly.

Book Review: Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

First just a quick announcement–I’m offering my short story pack “A Troll Under Golden Gate Bridge: A Cathy Pembroke Tale” for free for the next two weeks on Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/159895 . This is an experiment to see if offering the first tale free leads to any sales on anything else.

Now to the book review:

bones

Title: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1)

Author: Cassandra Claire

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: YA Paranormal, Horror (supposedly)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

So I already reviewed the movie few months back on my blog. Visually, I liked a lot of the elements, but plot-wise I felt it was weak and stumbling. I decided to read the book to see if any of the gaping holes in logic and continuity would be solved in the written version.

I’m happy to say that at least the world makes a bit more sense now.

SPOILER ALERT

No, these child Shadowhunters are not the only hunters on earth, which was alluded to in the movie. There was no ridiculous attempt to take over the world with flying demonspawn/bat things. And the logic of Jace being Valentine’s son held together a lot better with a lot more evidence. So in those aspects, I liked the book better. It’s still pretty junky teenage angst and creepy things, but it’s like candy–it tastes good for a moment then leaves you hungry afterwards. I like candy fiction now and again.

I read another review which stated that this book was basically rewritten Harry Potter fanfic, which I can somewhat see, but I applaud Cassandra for moving beyond that starting point, if that was the starting point. (which it probably was.) There’s enough interesting details in the world with the runes and scars and glamors that I enjoyed the tale. I caution the writer to avoid similes whenever possible. They are not her best talent. (his hair was like brass. REALLY?!) I’m also not crazy about the pseudo-incest or whatever you might call that, but it certainly creates tension. I caution here to stay away from the Mary Sue-like portrayal of her heroine, and either let her be ugly or just do away with the poor me I’m just not as pretty as ____ attitude. I’d also like to see her actually train to use a weapon before using one. It’s not that easy. Really.

I don’t particularly like Clary, the main character, which isn’t a good thing. But I sort of like Jace and all his conflicts. The best character by far was the warlock, because he was SUPPOSED to be cardboard and over the top. As others have said, we know next to nothing about Valentine which basically makes him a boring 2D villain. About the only reason I felt anything at all for him was because of Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ portrayal of him in the movie, which speaks volumes about JRM’s acting talent and nothing about Cassandra’s writing ability.

For now at least, I’m willing try the next book. Then we’ll see if I like where this series are actually going.

So for me, this earns a lukewarm 3 out of 5 stars. Sort of liked but didn’t love it.