Monthly Archives: January 2014

Book Review: Wool (Part One)

wool

Book: Wool, Part One

Author:  Hugh Howey

Publisher: Broad Reach

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

So I had to finally go out and read this, after all the hoopla about how great the story is and how Hugh Howey has made the leap from struggling self-published indie writer to working with publishers on a print-only deal. It’s certainly something to aspire to.

And what did I think? Note that I’ve only read the first part of this four part book, the one that Hugh continues to offer for free on Amazon.

It’s pretty decent. The tension and the plot certainly moved you right along, all the way to the ending, and I wasn’t certain what that ending would be until I got there. Ever read that old tale, the “Lady or the Tiger”? The one where a door is going to open and you don’t know if you’ll get your heart’s desire or be messily devoured?

Wool Part One is like that.

The good part is that you actually get the answer–I always hated the cop-out of ‘well you can make your own ending!” Good or bad, I want an ending. Hugh slips enough of a twist in that you don’t necessarily expect the ending, but once you see it, it makes sense. It’s a bleak world where humans have fled underground to escape a poisonous environment, and I can’t really envy them. The story is gritty and real, as are the characters, and the writing is tight and neat.

Yes, I did buy Part Two. So there’s enough here to keep me going.

Book Review: Kushiel’s Dart

Kushiel

Book: Kushiel’s Dart

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Genre:  Fantasy

Publisher: Macmillan

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book for all the research and world-building that went into it. Each culture is meticulously explored, vivid. In general I liked the arc of the plot and how things seemed to follow a destiny. Another interesting aspect was using real history and skewing it to create just a slightly different world with it’s own version of gods and cultures. You still have the Picts and the Celts and the Germanic and Roman lands but they’ve been altered just enough to make them seem new.

I did find the book a bit long. Yes, things did move along at a steady pace, but it was long and it felt long. This is the first book in a series, and I just can’t fathom delving into the second book which is just as long. My loss, perhaps, but there wasn’t quite enough to pull me into reading more. I finished this one and I’m happy I finished it. The story for me is complete enough as it stands.

While there was a tiny bit of magic in the book with the Master of the Straits and visions/precognition, it felt more like a historical novel than a fantasy novel, really. I would probably group this in with the ultra-realistic fantasy trend that seems popular lately.

So basically I enjoyed the richness of the journey and would recommend the book for those who enjoy epic journeys and political fantasies with lots of machinations and secret plots. It’s not really my thing, but I think the book did it well. Note the BDSM content, which was understated but prevalent throughout the book.

I don’t know if the author is French or has any background in France, but this book felt very European. I know that’s difficult to explain, but just watch a few French films and you’ll get what I mean. Note that French movies don’t always end well for everyone.

So basically this wasn’t really the book for me, but I recognize superior talent when I see it.

Author Interview: Sandra Barret

Things are busy lately and I haven’t been able to write as much, which is annoying. But I did want to announce that I’ve finally started up a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/judy.goodwin.9026 . I’ve also set up an author page for events like the upcoming release of Journey To Landaran. I’d appreciate some “likes” and comments!!  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judy-Goodwin/282580281866578

So today’s interview is with Sandra Barret, who lives in New England and loves science fiction, fantasy, and romance. You can learn more about Sandra on Goodreads here:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1152925.Sandra_Barret

sandra

1. What first interested you in writing?

The biggest interest for me was that I wanted to read stories that didn’t get published a lot. For me, that was science fiction and fantasy stories with strong female leads and a diverse ‘cast of characters’ that included people of color,  sexuality, and cultural backgrounds that don’t feature in a lot of mainstream books.

2.  I see a few older titles as well as new ones on Goodreads. What has your journey as a writer been like? What was it like working with different publishers?

I started out, oddly enough, in romance.  It was a story based entirely on a dream I had, and given I was unemployed and it was NanoWriMo month, I sat down and wrote the draft in that month.  It took me a lot longer to polish and get it published, but that’s what got me started.  I ventured into fantasy next, but never got that one published. Science fiction came next, and that’s the one that I’m focusing on now, with two books in a series out and working on the third.  I’d say I found my voice somewhat along that journey, and the rough edges of an SF military protagonist fits what I want to write these days.  I’m sure I’ll stray back into fantasy at some point, because that story hasn’t stopped rattling around in my head.

As for the publishers, I feel lucky to have worked with some great small press publishers. They each have their strengths and are very helpful to the newbie writer. I’ve learned quite a lot from them and from some anthology editors I’ve worked with over the years.

3.  Tell me about your latest book.

Blood of a Traitor is the second book in the Terrran-Novan series, though the books can be read out of order.  Kay, the MC, is the lone Terran in a Novan military unit and a clone. She is property of the military, with limited rights and no future beyond the genetic experiment that produced her.

The Terrans and Novans are both transhuman branches of humanity, the former using neural implants and other technology to boost them beyond unaltered human capabilities, the latter using genetic manipulation to boost entire populations beyond the norm.

Kay is stuck in the middle, needing to prove her innocence when Terran conspirators derail her unit’s latest mission and threaten her commanding officer, a member of the highest Novan military caste, and her ‘owner’.

4.  Who is your favorite writer, and why?

My favorites change over the years, but at the moment it’s a tie between Tanya Huff and C.J. Cherryh.  Huff writes the stories I wish I could write, with wit, sarcasm, and a kickass protagonist.  Her Valor series is my favorite.  Cherryh is Cherryh, masterful in creating engaging stories that bring to life nonhuman species and cultures like no other.  I’ve read her Cyteen book multiple times and will read it again soon because that story in particular is fascinating.  Every time you think you have a grip on where she’s going, the story takes a sharp turn and it’s as if you are reading a different book. Somehow, she makes it all work!

5.  What about science fiction appeals to you?

I love the action of a good science fiction space story, whether it’s military or space opera or something else. I’m especially enjoying stories that bring humans beyond current limitations. There’s a whole ‘what if’ of possibilities explored there that I enjoy.

6.  What project are you working on now?

I’m currently writing the next book in the Terran-Novan series.  This one will have somewhat less of a military/battle focus but will continue to explore ramifications from the first two books.  So this one will likely be best if read in order.

7.  What has been your experience with the wave of self-publishing and eBooks?

It’s a mixed bag.  There are some great self (or indie) published books out there, and there are some real rotters.  I’d say the good are as good as traditional published, and the bad are worse than traditional.  That said, again for the stories I enjoy, there is benefit to self-publishing to break away from the mold that seems to hold so much of our mainstream books.

eBooks I love. I get most of my books on my Kindle now, and the ability to download a sample and ‘test the waters’ is fantasic.  When I hear about an interesting book, I immediately download the sample and save it off. About half my purchases now come from those samples, where I decide I really do like the writing and the story.

8.  What advice do you have for new writers?

Read read and read.  And hate to say it, but read the top books in your genre, most of which will be traditionally published.  One of the things I see a lot in new writers is a tendancy toward great stories, but weak writing.  A lot of creative people get the workings of a fascinating premise, and a moving plot.  It’s the characters that can end up cardboard, and the machinations of sentence structure and whatnot that weaken some otherwise great stories.  And when you read, analyze it!  Why did you enjoy that last chapter? What did the author do when setting that scene? Why is that particular character or side character interesting?

The other advice – write, write, write some more.  Write more than I do, because I’m a slow lazy writer.  There is a lot of practice involved in writing, and from my own experience, I can say each book I write is stronger than the one before.

Then, whether you try traditional or go for indie publishing, get a good editor.  Editors can polish up a good story or tell you where the major rewrites are needed.   And don’t skimp on the cover art.  When I look online for books, one of the first things that catch my eye is the cover art.  I’m sure there are some great books I’m passing by because the art doesn’t draw me in.

Book Review: Stalking Darkness

 

seregilBook: Stalking Darkness (Book Two of the Nightrunner Series)

Author: Lynn Flewelling

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The first book of the series was pretty good–I liked the two main characters and there was good action and intrigue. This book by far surpasses the first book, both in the depth of the plot and in development of the characters. The reader gets to experience the transition in Alec from a boy to a young man who by the end loses all innocence (both in good ways and bad). Seregil goes from a simple happy-go-lucky rogue to someone with a great deal more depth. I also enjoyed the introduction of Kari, a young soldier whose father has spent much of his life adventuring beside Seregil.

There were some rather brutal moments as well. Again, this increased my enjoyment. There’s nothing like a really bad guy, some really icky magic, and a bit of kidnapping and torture to speed along a book. Things wrapped up nicely at the end, with just enough of a hook to lead to the third book. I have to wonder, however, if I’ve read the best that this series will ever be.

I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like in this book. Highly recommended for those who like rogues, danger, dark curses and necromancy as well as a bit of lighthearted romance. Just be aware the romance in this case is between Alec and Seregil.

Author Interview: Linda Brown

As I said yesterday, I fell behind a little in posting author interviews. so here is this week’s scheduled interview with Linda Brown. Linda published her first book recently, a memoire. While I don’t feature a lot of memoires generally, I thought hers looked interesting. You can find more about Linda Brown on Goodreads here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7203793.Linda_Brown

 linda

  1. What inspired you to write a book?
    All my life I had always said I would write a book about my life. Part of me believed it yet part of me believed I would never really do it. I had never thought of publishing though. My intent was quite different. I had kept many of the things in my life buried. I wanted to write the book to be able to leave behind for my children. I wanted the truth known. Then last year I felt this overwhelming sense of urgency to write the book. It was if I was called to write it. I felt driven that it had to be done. It was a strange feeling but I felt as if there were a looming deadline approaching and it had to be done now. So I decided to begin. Once I began I still felt rushed and driven. I felt as if God was telling me I had to do this now. I followed my feelings and wrote. Through that process I began to wonder if maybe by sharing my story it could help others.     2. I understand your book is a memoir, about breaking a cycle of abuse. Can you describe the process that went into writing this personal story?
    I began writing it with the mindset I was writing it for my own personal use. I wrote freely and without reserve by looking at it in that way. I wrote as if no one would ever see or read it. This process enabled me to be completely free and open. I didn’t think of what others would say or think. I just wrote my story. Once I neared the end I took a break for a week or two. When I began again I wrote from the mindset that I wanted to give others a message. I wanted them to learn from my life. It was a difficult process and quite the journey. Writing a memoir is so much different than other works. You are placing not just your words but your life and decisions out for the world to see and judge.
  2.      3. Who is your favorite writer, and why?
    I am an avid reader. I have so many authors I love. I have many genres I red and couldn’t pick an absolute favorite. I was recently introduced to the work of Lisa Grace who wrote Angels in the Shadows. She has a way of writing that draws you in and makes you truly connect with her characters. Another brilliant author I recently found was Tessa Afshar who wrote harvest of rubies. She is brilliant at telling a story that has heart, depth and yet humor. A few favorites include Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Ted Dekker and Karen Kingsbury. All of these writers have a way of writing a  tory yet making you think and wonder. You can’t help but think differently after reading their work.

    4. What are your hopes in publishing a book?
    My hopes were that in sharing my story others may find strength, hope and inspiration. I wanted others to know they are not alone. I had hopes that people may see as well that sometimes the things we say and do can leave permanent scars on those we hurt. I was able to break the cycle in my own family. I have dreams that others cycles can be broken as well. If all I went through in my life ends up helping one child somewhere then it was all worthwhile.

    5. What are you working on next?
    I am currently working on a young adult fiction series. The series is titled “Overcomer”. This series will follow the life of our character through tragedy and triumph. In this series you will get a glimpse of the demons haunting the character and the angels she does not see. Each is pursuing her throughout her life. She does not see or know of their battle. She is just the pawn.

    6. What have been your greatest challenges?
    My own personal greatest challenge has been to believe in myself. I fought to have faith in myself and believe I could accomplish this book.

    7. What kind of advice do you have for other writers?
    Don’t write to get on the best sellers list or to create an income. Don’t write looking for fame and fortune. Write because you have a story to tell. Write because you are driven to write. Write because it is your passion. Write for the sake of writing. Write because that is what you are… a writer

    8. Literature can both inspire as well as entertain. How would you seek to do both these things?
    My first book talks of abuse, neglect and many dark moments. However I didn’t want the entire book to be dark and depressing. Throughout I mention many humorous moments and try to bring smiles and laughter when possible to my readers. I wanted my readers to walk along with me in my journey. That does consist of many dark moments however I wanted them to laugh and smile with me too.

Author Interview: Sherri Fulmer Moorer

I have to apologize to Sherri. Her interview was scheduled last week but due to personal and work issues, I wasn’t able to post it. So I’m featuring her today, and our regularly scheduled interview tomorrow. Sherri writes YA, thrillers, and horror, and today speaks about a science fiction thriller. You can find more about Sherri on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1099515.Sherri_Fulmer_Moorer

sherri

Sherri Fulmer Moorer, Independent Author
http://www.sherrithewriter.com/
https://www.amazon.com/author/sherrimoorer

1.  What first led you to write? I’ve always been a writer. Before I learned how to write, I’d draw pictures in my picture books to expand on the stories, or to tell my own. I guess I’ve always been a storyteller. Once I learned to write, I’d keep notebooks and journals of short stories I created. When my husband and I got a personal computer in 2001, I decided it was time to write the book I always dreamed of writing. It grew from there.

2.  You seem to write in a variety of genres. What inspires you? Everything – my own life experiences, experiences other people share with me, news stories I read online or see on television, other books I read, TV shows and movies I watch – inspiration is everywhere! I think the bulk of my inspiration comes from personal experiences and the issues I deal with on a day to day basis.

3.  What differences have you found in writing nonfiction versus ficton? Fiction is more challenging, but more rewarding. I started out writing inspirational non-fiction, and the well of inspiration ran dry on me in a few short years. There’s only so much you can do in one genre without repeating yourself. But there was another problem – credentials. You can’t write non-fiction for long before somebody comes along saying “who makes you the authority on this?” and questioning why they should listen to you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for them to get others asking the same questions. If you don’t have a doctorate degree or specialized, high level career experiences, then you’re going to have to overcome the “why should you be the boss of me?” hurdle, and to me it wasn’t worth the fight. My end goal had always been to venture into fiction. When I hit the resistance in inspirational writing, I decided it was time to overcome my fear of creating my own worlds and to dive in, if I wanted to keep my dream of being a writer alive. In my experience, it seems that creating a work of fiction requires more research, because you have to create everything yourself and make it believable to the readers, whereas non-fiction deals with just the facts. It’s worth it, though, because there’s a magic in being able to create your own world and to watch it take a life of its own. Plus, people seem to enjoy fiction more. I think it’s because it gives them an escape from reality, and the freedom to draw lessons that speak to their own life. People can take a number of realizations and inspirations from fiction, whereas non-fiction is limited to the specific theme you choose. I do still enjoy venturing into non-fiction work occasionally, but these days I limit it to articles with tips and tricks I’ve found that make life easier, or opinion pieces.

4.  Tell me about your latest book. Splinter is an apocalyptic science-fiction novel about a young woman that finds herself as one of the last 1,000 survivors of Earth’s destruction due to a solar flare. In the days following the event, dark matter starts to rip open the fabric of space and time, showing alternate realities where it seems the destruction was planned and executed by a radical religious group that believed it was their mission to bring about the end of the world. I wrote this novel at a time in my life when I was facing a lot of change in my life. I was frustrated with keeping up with all of the change, and especially with other peoples’ decisions changing my life in ways I didn’t agree to. As I said many times during that difficult season, I was mad at the world, so I killed it – fictionally, at least. But the novel brings about good questions about how much you can take, and what lengths you would go to in order to preserve the life you have and the world as you know it. Is the world worth saving? It depends on your perspective, and this novel gives readers a good look at what it would be like if you could see the “what if’s” in life, and what lengths you’d go to in order to take advantage of them.

5.  Who is your favorite writer, and why? I’d have to name two. J.R.R. Tolkein for fiction, and C.S. Lewis for non-fiction. The reason is because both of these gentlemen had great minds. They were masters of weaving a tale and expressing it beautifully, and they had to fit their writing into a full life. Tolkein and Lewis worked until retirement, and did their writing during their free time from work and home obligations, like so many writers today. They’re excellent examples of how someone can be a brilliant writer and fit their writing into a full life just like their readers have.

6.  What are you working on next? Right now, I’m working on a sci-fi novella titled Incursion. This is about a crew that witnesses a brutal attack on an Earth sector while making a supply run from The Jovan System, and they have to decide whether to get involved in the political dispute or withdraw, per their orders. Things get complicated when they’re contacted by the attacking sector asking for clemency, and their neural chips malfunction due to a strange carrier wave that initiated during the Earth attack. The only way to repair the chip is to return to Earth to investigate this carrier wave, which puts them back in the crossfire between disobeyed orders and an outcast sector begging for intervention and clemency.

7.  What led you to indie publishing? The number one thing that led me to indie publishing is the rise of ebooks. I saw the sales figures and popularity of them rising in recent years, and I wanted to get on that trend while it was still growing. I was lucky to be picked up by two e-publishers for my “bigger” works, but I decided to supplement it with self publishing for some of my shorter works. Another compelling factor was that I like to write in a variety of genres, and you can’t do that if you’re traditionally published. If you’re picked up by one of the big publishers, you’re pretty much stuck in the genre they pick you up in. I like writing mystery novels and want to continue doing that, but I also love science-fiction and would like to expand into that market as well. And third (and most obvious) is facing the cold, hard truth: the Heavens are made of brass in traditional publishing. The big publishers in New York aren’t keen on picking up new authors without an agent, and agents aren’t keen on taking a chance. The “breakout” hits like Harry Potter and the Twilight Series are very rare exceptions. Truthfully, you’re going to have to do most of your own promotion whether you publish indie or traditionally, but at least going the indie route gives you an opportunity to build up an audience on your own terms. Going indie puts you in better contact with your readers and better control over the development of your work. And doesn’t the power in the book industry really belong in the hands of readers and writers? It does in indie publishing, but not so much in traditional. Sure, I’ve heard the theories that the quality of indie novels are worse, but that’s not always the case. If a writer takes care and attention to getting good edits and a great cover, they can stand against just as good a chance as the big timers; and introduce something exciting and new to readers that the big publishers wouldn’t take a chance on.

8.  What advice do you have for other writers? Be patient and don’t give up. This is a rejection heavy business, and the only way to succeed is to keep trying, keep working at it, and never give up. One of my e-book publishers asked me to rewrite my last mystery novel, Move, because it was a mix of mystery and urban fantasy, and they said they weren’t comfortable with making that leap yet. I respected their decision and knew they had good reason for asking this, but there was no way for me to rewrite the novel and keep what I felt were the important elements of the story if I removed the urban-fantasy element. I decided to self publish Move, and it’s done as well as my others so far. Writing takes a heavy dose of discernment, because you have to know which criticism and advice to take, and when to let it go and strike out on a new direction.

I often tell people that in writing, fortune favors the persistent. What takes a year in the rest of the world could well take a decade in the writing world, and if you aren’t willing to put in that investment, then there’s not a way for you to succeed. Keep in mind my own journey: I told you above that I started pursuing novel writing and publication in 2001. My first book was published in 2004, and it was a flop. It took me until 2011 and switching genres to get any traction back in writing, and I had a three year interval from 2007 – 2010, where every single thing I wrote was rejected. It was hard to stay the course and keep writing during that dry spell, but things started moving again in 2011, and everything I wrote during that time has now been published.

Keep trying and don’t give up if it’s truly in your heart to be a writer. In time you not only grow in the craft, but learn that precarious balance to get established, connect with readers, handle the criticism, and keep things moving in a positive direction.

Blog Tour Announcement

Aidah

I just want to announce that my host has set up the dates and places for my upcoming blog tour following the release of Journey To Landaran: Book One of the Spirit Mage Saga. Cami who runs the Reading Addiction Blog Tours has worked with other writer friends of mine including E.M Haves whose steampunk romance did really well last year.

Here is the preliminary lineup:

March 2 – Reading Addiction Blog Tours – Meet and Greet
March 3 – Book Lovers Life – Guest Post
March 4 – Michael SciFan – Interview
March 5 – E.M. Havens Writes – Review
March 6 – Getting Your Read On – Review
March 7 – Loving the Language of Literacy – Review
March 8 – Magic & Mayhem – Guest Post
March 9 – Deal Sharing Aunt – Excerpt
March 10 – Jeanz Book Read n Review  -Interview
March 11 – Unladylike Reviews – Review
March 12 – My Devotional Thoughts – Excerpt
March 14 – Dalene’s Book Reviews – Review
March 14 –RABT Reviews – Wrap Up
And in other news, the reviews are starting to trickle in for the book, and they’re looking good! I’m working now on my final round of edits. If you want to review a copy, please let me know.