Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 55 -- Blood of Requiem (Song of Dragons 1)

by Daniel Arenson

Started: Oct. 24
Finished: Oct. 28

Notes: The year is winding down and I've not read nearly as much fantasy as I'd wanted. However, there's still a little time to correct that to some extent, so here goes. Arenson has been pretty popular on the Amazon fantasy rankings the last year or two, so I thought I'd give his writing a go.

Mini review: In a world where shapeshifters can go from being human to being dragons, an evil rises and nearly stomps them out. Now years later, a few survivors in hiding come forth to set things right. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot good to say here, but I'll try not to belabor the point. The prose was fine, nothing outstanding but it got the job done. Still, I never felt any excitement reading this, though I wasn't completely bored and there were a few moments of decent tension. The characters were mostly one dimensional, in my opinion. After an initial background story of horrors, nothing too traumatic happens to any of the characters for the rest of the book, at least not that lead to any real sense of loss. Then the final battle ... here I had some major problems, too many really to go into. However, I will say this: When you have beaten your enemy and have him under your boot, if he squeaks up at you, "Hey, let me up so we can fight like men," then you kill the bastard. I don't care if he's family or your best pal or whatever, especially after he's murdered thousands and raped and done all kinds of other atrocities, you put the sucker down. This, or something similar, happens more than once here. And honestly, in the end, when it's all over, I didn't feel like much had changed, that the characters had grown nor that their situation had changed much, other than some foreshadowing of a new threat. Arenson seems to sell well and have fans (hell, far more than me, I'm sure), and I don't want to judge a fellow writer or his career based upon my reading of one book, so more power to him. This wasn't for me, though, and I'm not likely to return. It happens. We each have different tastes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 54 -- The Cage

by Brian Keene

Started: Oct. 23
Finished: Oct. 23

Notes: This author rose to some prominence within the horror community on the wave of zombie popularization about a decade ago, a wave which still continues though Keene has also worked on other material, such as this collection of four short stories. The lead story is "The Cage," and it's about a workplace shooting (and then some, apparently). I've read a little of his work and have been meaning to get back to him, so with Halloween approaching, now seemed a good time.

Mini review: Overall, these are fairly strong stories. The best is the first, "The Cage," in no small part because it shifts gears at one point, switching from more realistic horror to ... something else, though I won't say what. Some might not like that sudden change, but I found it somewhat refreshing though not completely unexpected after an early hint in the tale. On the downside, and this is just me, most of these tales were more realistic in tone than I'm currently wanting to read, but that's not the author's fault and I knew this was a possibility going on. So, no foul there, just my current frame of mind at work.

Books read in 2014: No. 53 -- The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

by Robert E. Howard

Started: Oct. 10
Finished: Oct. 23

Notes: Halloween is here, so it's time for some horror, and I'm in the mood to read some Howard, thus I get the best of both worlds in this collection. Some of these tales I've read before, even multiple times, such as the famous "Pigeons From Hell," but others are new to me. Sometimes I almost forget Howard penned horror, as I think of him as a fantasy writer first and a historical fiction writer second, then I think of him as a boxing writer; this book should set me upon a straighter path, I think.

Mini review: Much of this material might not be considered horror by today's reading audiences, more of action-adventure tales with horrific elements, though there is a strong Lovecraftian bent to a lot of these stories (obviously so, in a number of cases, which makes sense since Howard and Lovecraft were pen pals and friends of sorts). Also, I made the mistake of reading this collection straight through, and I believe the stories would serve the reader better by being read individually with some time and space between; Howard's themes, and sometimes even his characters and plots, are often similar enough to be downright boring when all engulfed in a relatively short period. That does not mean the writing was not strong. In fact, while much of the writing held Howard's typical flair for words, there were enough lesser-known and partial pieces here which showed Howard knew how to expand beyond the expected. I appreciate that. Is this worth reading? For the Howard fan, yes? Even the Lovecraft fan would be well served to drum through these pages. Fans of pulp fiction in general will find material here to enjoy. But the average modern reader? Probably not, which is a shame but a likely reality.

Friday, October 17, 2014

'Where Gather the Gods'

Where Gather the Gods is my latest novel or novella, whichever term you prefer. Right at 40K words, I've seen some sources which call this a short novel, others which suggest it is a long novella.

It is currently available in print only, though the e-book version is available for pre-order at Amazon. The e-book will be released Dec. 1, and for now the price is only 99 cents. The e-book is also available for pre-order at other venues, such as Smashwords, Kobo, etc.

The story here is part of my Ursian Chronicles, taking place about 10,000 years before the birth of my Kron Darkbow character. For that matter, the events take place before mankind in my world has formed civilization of any note. I could go back even further, and perhaps I will at some point, but for now I wanted to focus upon characters and events which will play a role in the shaping of my world, and will have an effect upon Kron and his time period.

This is the first of a trilogy, the second book to be titled A Place Called Skull. That second novel is almost complete and will likely also be available Dec. 1 in print and e-book formats.

The third book is titled Whom the Gods Slay, and I'm not so sure about a release date for that one. I'd really like to have it available for sale on Dec. 1 with the other two books because I would like to have them all out at the same time. However, as I've not even started that novel, it likely will not be available at that date. Still, I can give it the old college try, and we'll see what happens; either way, the third book should be along at least later in December or maybe some time in January.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 52 -- The Blood That Bonds

by Christopher Buecheler

Started: Oct. 7
Finished: Oct. 10

Notes: With Halloween looming on the horizon, I thought it time I dipped into some darker material. Here there be vampires.

Mini review: This book is a prime example of why I like to read authors with whom I'm unfamiliar. In many ways, the storytelling here was darn near perfect. A lady of the night becomes a creature of the night, putting behind her one tragic life for another. Imagine if Anne Rice's vampire chronicles were less touchy-feely and a little more action oriented, and you've got a good idea of the style of this novel. My only almost-complaint here is that the story after the climax seems to go on for a bit, but in truth it is worth it once one sees where things are headed. Also, I'd like to add, the author here gave me a surprise or two when the climax struck, which is a rare thing for me nowadays. I'll be seeking more works from this writer.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 51 -- Bushido, the Soul of Japan

by Inazo Nitobe

Started: Oct. 4
Finished: Oct. 7

Notes: When I'm in the mood for something truly different, I'll go perusing through the Amazon listings of old and free e-books, many from the 19th Century and earlier, some great works of literature but others often enough long forgotten pieces, sometimes fiction and sometimes not. This particular book originally came out in 1899. The author came to the U.S. and was a professor, agriculturalist, delegate to the League of Nations, eventually a Quaker, and much more. In part, he wrote this little book to help show non-Japanese how ethics were passed from generation to generation, and to explain a little history, often through comparisons (where appropriate) to European history.

Mini review: You're not going to find anything here on swordplay or warfare. In fact, the two are rarely mentioned. What you will find, however, is a treatise on the "knightly virtues" of Bushido, basically the code of chivalry (for lack of a better word) for samurai or bushi, the traditional Japanese warrior class of nobles. Though a code of sorts for nobility, the author also talks about how the notions behind bushido have spread into the non-noble sectors of Japan and Japanese life. Treating bushido as a religion, the author extols the many virtues of this code, though he does not shy from giving his opinion on some of the negatives. Also, though a Christian convert, his love of Japan and to bushido shines through. Of particular interest to me was the last chapter in which the author talks about the future of bushido, which he sees as slowly fading away much as did the code of chivalry; keeping in mind when this book was originally published and the history of Japan during the next century, these are what drew me to that last paragraph.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 50 -- The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe

by Jeff Bennington

Started: Oct. 1
Finished: Oct. 4

Notes: This e-book is a couple of years old, which means it is likely way out of date. Still, I've had it a while and have wanted to get to it. Maybe I'll pick up a few things.

Mini review: Surprisingly, this e-book wasn't as dated as I thought it might have been. More inspirational than anything, the author kept to a lot of broad advice which is still quite relevant, especially to beginning writers looking to self publish. And the few specifics that came up were mostly still relatable, focusing on a few marketing techniques and even some technical points about HTML for Amazon pages. I even discovered a few Web sites for marketing with which I was unfamiliar, and that came as a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 49 -- Of Dice and Men

by David M. Ewalt

Started: Sept. 27
Finished: Oct. 1

Notes: I don't think the average person realizes just how much of an influence the game of Dungeons & Dragons has had upon popular culture. For instance, without D&D, many video games would probably not play or even look the way they do. Hit points? That came out of D&D. Halflings? The term came from D&D. Drow? D&D. Armor class? D&D. I could go on. Hell, the very idea of a group of adventurers gathering together to go off on a quest was popularized by D&D even more than the fantasy literature that came before, or at least D&D reached out to a wider and broader audience. For any writers, especially fantasy writers, who disagree with me, how many times have you read submission guidelines that told you not to send in a story if it read like a D&D game? Case closed. Anyway, whether you agree with me or not, this book I'm reading is something of a history of D&D and tabletop roleplaying in general, from those who created such games decades ago (and today) to the modern players. I've been excited about reading this one for a while.

Mini review: Ultimately this is one writer's love letter to a game he has played most of his life and of which he has many fond memories. The experienced RPG player will not find a lot new to him or her here, and the author mentions this early on, but the casual fan or someone with interest will probably learn a few things. I have to say it was nice walking down memory lane with the author, and to experience his meeting with some of the great names in the game's history as well as his visits to some of the places which were hot spots in the game's early days.