Sunday, November 30, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 59 -- The Eye of the World

by Robert Jordan

Started: Nov. 11
Finished: Nov. 30

Notes: This book is the first in what is one of the most famous of modern epic fantasy series, probably only Martin's Game of Thrones material having a wider audience. Yes, it's true, I've not read this. To be honest, I've been putting it off for more than a decade because I was turned off by much of the fanboy attitudes I ran into concerning this series. I can't stand fanboy crap. Being a fan is fine, but allowing something to consume one's life is another matter, in my opinion, especially when things turn ugly. But I eventually realized that maybe I was being as silly as the fanboys, but in the opposite way. Why should I allow their silliness to keep me from reading what might very well be a damn good book? So, yeah, I'm here now and reading.

Mini review: If you're the kind of fantasy reader who loves all the traditional tropes of the genre, then this book is for you. Farmboy who turns out to be someone important? Check. He has a special sword? Check. He traipses across the land with a band of fellows while on their way to face a dark lord? Check. His buddies have names that practically scream Tolkien? Check. There's also a brooding guy in a cloak? Check. Yes, I could go on. I won't. As you can likely tell, this one isn't for me. The writing is by no means bad in and of itself, but there was more description than I like, and often not enough description of things that could have really used it. Then there were the dreams. Lots and lots of dreams for the characters. I hate dreams. Loathe them. They bring the story to a halt, usually with some kind of vague foreshadowing that never makes any real sense. I repeat, I hate dreams in literature. And they are in abundance here. So, yeah, I'm not likely to ever continue this series. Still, it's not the worst fantasy I've ever read, and maybe if I had read it when it was first published a couple of decades ago, then maybe I'd like it. Maybe. But after reading this, I don't ever want to hear another person bitching about The Sword of Shannara ripping off Tolkien.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

For what I am thankful

I am thankful Kelly and I had 12 years together.

I am thankful to have Lily, our beagle. She is like having a little piece of Kelly with me still.

I am thankful for my mom. She is my rock.

I am thankful for my father. I hope he has found peace at last.

I am thankful for friends I have and have had, many who probably think I have forgotten them.

I am thankful to have my writing career.

I am thankful for the memories.

I am thankful for God.

And I am thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Are you sure Poe done it this way?

(With more than a nod to Waylon Jennings)

It's the same old tale, pencil on paper.
Where do we take it from here?
Melodrama and tear-jerking capers,
We've been the same way for years.
Things need to change.

Somebody told me when I first got printed,
Son, you finally got it made.
Old Poe made it this way, we're all sure that you will,
But I don't think Poe done it this way.
I don't think Poe done it this way.

Ten books down on paper, written with bloody hands,
Typing my whole life away.
Tell me one more time just so I understand,
Are you sure Poe done it this way?
Did Ole Poe really do it this way?

I've seen the world through a cheap flat screen
staring right back at me.
Writing my tales and reading some of his,
But I don't think Poe done 'em this way.
No, I don't think Poe done 'em this way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'A Place Called Skull'

A Place Called Skull, the second novel in my Walking Gods Trilogy, is now available in print and it is available in e-book form as a 99-cent pre-order at Amazon, Google PlayBarnes and Noble and Smashwords. The actual release date for the e-book is Dec. 1, the same as for the first novel in the trilogy, Where Gather the Gods. The book is approximately 53,000 words in length.

It is not likely the third novel, Whom the Gods Slay, will be available by Dec. 1. In fact, it would take a miracle at this point. However, I'll try to have it for readers sometime in January, if possible. If I can make it available sooner, I will.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 58 -- Storyteller Tools

by M. Harold Page

Started: Nov. 9
Finished: Nov. 11

Notes: I've been trying to stray from books about writing of late as I've found I've read so many that they often seem to say the same things over and over again, maybe with a tip or two here and there but nothing else really new to say. But then I came upon one of Page's Black Gate posts about writing and NaNoWriMo (no, I'm not specifically taking part though I am writing). To be blunt, I was blown away by some of the things he came up with, and while I recognized everything he had to say, I had never quite thought of it in his terms. So, that post lead me to wanting to read his book about writing. If this book is a tenth as helpful as that post was, then it's well worth my reading time.

Mini review: This one was worth reading for me. I'm not quite sure it's appropriate for the rookie writer, as they need to learn some basics before getting deeper into subjects like plot development and story structure, but for those who have those basics down and are ready to begin building their worlds and stories, this book could be a boon. It could also be appropriate for more experienced writers, giving them a different way to look at structure and the like. Without giving too much away here, the author focuses upon not only story construction, but also that of scenes and individual chapters. He also gives a look into paragraph and sentence building, especially in showing how a character relates to and expresses his or her surrounding environment. For all of this, the text here is not verbose or pendatic; the reader isn't likely to feel overwhelmed by literary terms because the writing is quite down to earth. However, keep in mind this is one author's approach, and he admits that, so take what works for you then come up with your own writing strategies.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 57 -- The Searchers

by Alan LeMay

Started: Nov. 6
Finished: Nov. 9

Notes: Books like this are why I love perusing used book shops. Sometimes you find something you didn't even think still existed. For those who don't know, this novel was the inspiration for a 1954 movie starring John Wayne, and many consider the film one of the best Westerns ever to be screened. I've long been wanting to read the original novel, and here's my chance.

Mini review: The writing strikes as a bit old fashioned at first, but that's to be expected from a novel that's 60 years old, and it doesn't impede the reader once familiarity has grown after about 10 or 15 pages. It's actually a darn good story, in many ways better than the movie, though the movie has its own strengths. One thing that surprised me was that the viewpoint character is Martin Pawley, and in the movie the focus is more upon Edwards, the John Wayne character. For the most part the movie sticks with the novel. There are a few name changes and some minor events that are slightly different, but the major change is in the ending. By the time the reader reaches that end, I believe it's a much more personal story than is the movie, which focuses more upon stoic heroics and similar themes common to Western films of the '50s and early '60s (those same themes can be found in later Westerns, but aren't quite as common with the revisionist films coming into their own). I can highly suggest this for fans of Western fiction. Fans of the movie won't find much new here, but this ending definitely goes off into other territory and might be worth experiencing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 56 -- The Way of Shadows

by Brent Weeks

Started: Oct. 29
Finished: Nov. 5

Notes: This author has been popular in fantasy circles for a while now, having lead the charge in popularity of assassins and what some have termed "cloak guy" characters, though that might have more to do with cover art than the actual writing. This is my first time to read any of his novels, so I'm looking forward to it. As can be expected, the focus is upon fantasy assassins.

Mini review: Wow. This was simply awesome, some great fantasy writing. If you like darker epic and heroic fantasy, do yourself a favor and read this book. But don't get too attached to many of the characters. Hint, hint. The only downside here for me was I felt the last fourth of the book got a bit muddled as there was so much happening at once with a number of different characters, but still, not a moment was I bored or wanting to turn away. There's some politics here, but nowhere near the level of a George R.R. Martin, and the story isn't as philosophical as those of an author like Steven Erikson; if anything, this novel kind of reminded me of what a modern-day Thieves' World could be. Now, go read this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

New children's book for Christmas

A couple of years ago my wife wrote and illustrated a Halloween children's book, Hollybelle the Witch and the Broomstick Ball. Before she passed away earlier this year, she had completed the writing of a sequel story and she had started on the artwork. Unfortunately, she had not had time to finish the art before she passed away.

However, I managed to cobble together her finished art plus parts of some pieces she had started, and now her Christmas book is available in e-book for the Kindle, Hollybelle the Witch and the Colorful Christmas Conundrum. The e-book will be available for free from Nov. 28-30 and Dec. 24-25.

The printed book should be available in the next couple of weeks.

Honey, it's out there now. I hope you like what I did with your work.