Friday, June 29, 2012

My First Award Post

Jeff Hargett  from Strands Of Pattern   awarded me the Fabulous Blog Ribbon!

Here are the rules:
1. Post the rules on your blog.
2. Name five of your most fabulous moments, either in real life or in the blogosphere.
3. Name five things you love.
4. Name five things you hate.
5. Pass the Ribbon on to five other bloggers.

5 Fabulous Moments

1. Earning my black belt in Tae Known Do
2. Completing the first draft of my first novel Journey To Chaos Book 1: A Mage's Power
3. Graduating from the University of Minnesota with two bachelor degrees
4. Receiving a job working at TCF
5. The 100 pageview turn out for the vote on the cover of "A Mage's Power

5 Things I Love

1. My family
2. My craft
3. My job
4. My mom's cooking
5. frozen waffles with butter and syrup on the weekends

5 Things I Hate

1. Wasting Time
2. Sleep
3. Editors on TV tropes who don't read the definitions before using the trope.
4. Enforced drama on TV shows
5. Polly (one of the family dogs)

What goes around comes around....

1. A.M.Supinger Inner Owlet
2. Marcia Doyle  Menopausal Mother
3. Robin Lovejoy
4. Von L Cid
5. S.T. Lakata

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Finished reading "Gifts" by Ursula K. Le Guin

I liked it. The plot was solid. The characters develop nicely. Miss Guin resolves the book's conflict while leaving plenty of room for more stories. Its just...not quite what I expected from the back cover.

The plot as described there does not kick in until perhaps fifty pages in. The story is still interesting before then but its a more 'anthology' interesting than a 'gripping plot' interesting. Orrec tells the newcomer stories of his homeland. Its an 'epic lore' kind of thing. He tells about Blind Caddard and how his parents met and fell in love. Its a low energy tone but a strong low energy tone; like a sturdy work horse.
The main plot line involving Orrec and his Power Incontinence is much more gripping. See, all the families in the Uplands have superpowers but they're afraid to use them for fear of counterattack. They use edged politeness, veiled threats and other tactics to avoid open conflict. Orrec is at the center of one such conflict as a Brantor's (Lineage head and domain leader) son. Its the same level of energy but wound tight. A wrong word or move could spark a war. Its not a rapid paid turner but you'll definitely turn them.
As for characters, the progression of the main two fits the pace of the tone: its slow and sure and steady. It leads to an ending I didn't see coming. Its obvious in retrospect but it involved a twist I couldn't be prepared for. Its a whopper.
It has romance but it also has a refreshing lack of drama. I can't stand that sort of thing. There's tension yes, but its personal worth tension and family politics and making the transition from 'friend' to 'lover'. Personally I prefer this to sexual tension and betrayals etc.
I find two flaws with this book but on reflection there aren't really flaws.
1.The story begins with the leading man (Orrec) and the leading lady (Gry) explaining how the Uplands work to a stranger from the lowlands. The first chapter sets the stage in terms of geography and the families and their gifts. Its important stuff and delivered with feeling and without 'as you know' but its kinda lackluster. I wasn't interested until the second chapter.
2. The digression from the protagonist's life to that of his great grandfather and than his own father. After that it still takes over one hundred pages to reach the point where the book started: Orrec speaking with the stranger. This story structure leaves the structure and conflict of the book in limbo, but as I said above, its still interesting reading and sets up Orrec's story. Making this less of a flaw, the idea of 'telling stories' becomes a plot point at two critical junctions.
Honestly, I'm still going back and forth about giving this book five stars instead of four. Regardless its likely to be joined on my book shelf by its sequel, "Voices", in the near future.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Answering Review Request: "Be Paranoid, Be Prepared" by Dina Rae

The first thing you should know about this story is that its not really a short story; its a prequel to Miss.Rae's main work "The Last Degree". A conflict is set up, the protagonist decides to take action and then the story ends. Its like a commerical in written form. That being said, I liked it.

The opening is weak; James stumbles into his apartment between shifts. It quickly gets better though. My interest perked at the phrase 'zombie night'. Exposition (James's family, work, etc) fills in as he gets dressed for it. The prose is this short and jagged thing that fits oddly well with a guy lacking in motivation and who runs on coccaine.

The scene at the strip club is worth reading and not for that reason. Its the escalation from a simple party to a lethal brawl seen through the eyes of a bouncer that drove me from page to page. The fact that everyone is hyped up on drugs and alcohol and dressed like the undead makes for nice irony when real blood mixes with red dye.

However, she started lossing me at the next scene. Debba (the girl on the cover) reveals her secret to James. Him being a borderline stranger I couldn't fathom why she would be so open. By the cliff hanger she's lost me entirely because I didn't it buy entirely and because I can think of an Oscam's Rasor alternative. On the other hand, my skeptical 'that's it?' was a halfbreed with a disappointed 'that's it?'. I would have read the second chapter if there was one.

A second problem I have is Debba's character, though depending on events in the main book it might not be a problem at all. Based on the ending I feel she is solely here to give James a kick in the pants and trigger the main work's plot. On TVtropes we call that "Disposable Woman" and it annoys us, but if the main book reveals this is not the case than I applaud Miss. Rae for making me think that trope was in effect before I realized that might not be the case.

Nothing is resolved. The conflict is only starting at the end. I HAVE read short stories that worked like this so I suppose it can stand alone in 'X-files' kind of way. This work being an 'appetizer' for "The Last Degree", though, I feel it would work better as a prologue than a prequel. I read it in about half an hour (it took me longer to write this review) and only costs 0.99 cents so if you want something 'short and sweet' you should buy it.

Click here for the next review request: Nimpentoad

Click here for the previous review request: Talented

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Answering Review Request: "Talented" by Sophie Davis

I read Talented as part of a GoodReads group. It's marketed as a science fiction intrigue but the main focus is a love triangle. My review will be split into five categories: plot, characters, world building, polish, and overall. Following will be my bottom line and recommendation. Be warned that there may be spoilers but I will do my best to avoid them.

1. Plot
The start is good: an attack on Elite Headquarters that turns out to be a mere hazing to the pledge hunters carried out by the full fledged hunters. Its dramatic and exciting and it pulled me in. The next scene is a tender moment for Natalia (the protagonist) and Donavon (her boyfriend). This is also good because it transitions nicely from the reveal and allows for teasing from her teammates, setting up a sibling-like dynamic with them.
The first seven chapters are great. There's swift character develop, plenty of non-intrusive world building, some romance between Natalia and Donavon, and comedy relief from Erik. The next seven chapters drag. There is no more world building, Natalia's relationship with Donavon takes up more screen time, and a lot of nothing goes on before the first mission begins.
The first mission itself wasn't bad. A new team with a pledge team member isn't going to get the most exciting mission. This is realistic and reasonable; a good choice. Erik's actions at the end are surprising and provide a Chekhov's gun for later use.
It's after the first mission that I have issues with this book. The plot dissolves into relationship drama and anything involving The Coalition ( the bad guys) slips into the background. Their next missions aren't developed in the slightest. 'went off without a hitch' is their entirety. It is at this point that the reader will notice the lack of a driving conflict.
The Coalition is scantly developed: anti-talented group that took over seven states in the backstory. There's nothing else about them. The Agency, for its world building, is sparse about its activities. Hunters 'hunt' information and people but what kind of information is ambiguous and what kind of people is implied to be protestors.  Though this DOES serve a purpose in the plot it doesn't help the lack of direction in this area which contributes to the over exposure of the relationship drama. The following chapters see this trend continue;  hunter missions becomes subordinated to set up more relationship conflict. I feel Miss. Davis was bored by the stable Natalia/Donavon and exploited it for conflict.
Chapter twenty four is a breath of fresh air. It has a detailed mission with suspense and hints at a dark side of The Agency. However, as soon as the mission is over, the relationship conflict resumes dominance. It's like the start except Natalia is cuddling with someone besides Donavon.
The final arc I really like.
For starters the stakes are high: it's a mission that determines whether or Natalia can graduate from the hunter academy and become a full fledged hunter. Since she is a telepaths and telepaths don't normally become hunters her reputation and that of her team captain and her adoptive father/boss are riding on her performing well.
There's plenty of detail in her actions and what she has to do to succeed. She makes mistakes but is able to improvise. She feels guilt over using mind manipulation. There's suspense and a clash with the Big Bad of the Coalition, Mr. Crane. It has the excitement of a climax but it doesn't resolve anything. I would have liked to see Natalia go back to Elite Headquarters for her graduation because that was how the book started; her starting her pledge year.

2. Characters

Like the plot, the characters start off great. Natalia is a Nice Girl who takes her missions seriously but not obsessively and makes time for non-hunter related things like dates with Donavon. Eric is established as a funny charmer who girls swoon over and Henri as their Reasonable Authority Figure captain. Later, Penny is brought in as a quirky sociable friend for Natalia and works well as her foil. Like the plot, it sours.
Natalia comes off as schizophrenic because in one scene she's 100 percent focused on being a hunter and avenging her parents and then in the next she's pining after Erik or feeling guilty about pinning after Erik because her boyfriend is Donavon.
Erik shifts from being a funny charmer to a jealous angst guy that clashes with Donavon. At the start he goes to the city every other night for a one night stand and then after the first mission he's serious about Natalia and no mention of him looking for chicks is ever made again.
Henri is pushed to the sidelines because he doesn't have relationship trouble. Penny's purpose (until the climax) is reduced to teasing/pushing Natalia toward Erik. Donavon goes from a Nice Guy to a jerkass to borderline evil.
From chapter seventeen to twenty four the sole focus is a love triangle of Erik/Natalia/Donavon and triggered by Erik bandaging the wounds Natalia received on the first mission. She's lived with him for an extended period of time and yet suddenly she's distracted by his eyes and chest, etc. I wouldn't mind if the conflict weren't so generic. Donavon is her childhood friend that she feels safe with and Erik is a ladykiller that excites her with good looks. It's 'comfortable vs thrilling'.

3. World Building

This part is my favorite. Miss. Davis obviously put a lot of thought in this world and how it would work. Entire chapters early on are dedicated to explaining the source of Talents or how The Agency works or the origin of The Coalition. Best of all, the exposition is slotted into its own, brief, chapters; no 'as you know' between Natalia and someone else.
My personal favorite is the Mandatory Testing Act, more broadly known in fiction as a 'Superhuman Registration Act'. Unlike many examples this one has been in effect for one hundred years and become a fundamental part of society.
However, there is one problem. The origin of talents is explained by nuclear waste leaking into oceans and soil and thereby mutating it, yet scientists in the same chapter claim the can't find a mutation that could cause talents. Unless the true origin of talents or finding the specific mutation is a plot point then there is a contradiction in her premise.

4. Polish

The book looks unpolished. Words are missing semi-frequently. Commas are overused. Sentence structure is bland and could use trimming.

5. Overall

After completing the book I feel Miss Davis wanted to write a romance but wanted to rope in a Periphery Demographic by including super powers and CIA-like missions. There's nothing wrong with that but you have to deliver. About 80 percent of the story is Natalia's relationship problems. Only three missions receive any development and the first two are completed in pages.  Romance might like it but everyone else should stay far away.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Talented" an F.

Click here for the next review request: Be Paranoid, Be Prepared

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Final Cover for "A Mage's Power"

This is it. This is going to be the cover for my debut novel ,Journey To Chaos book 1: A Mages Power.I love it and here's why:
1. It has a fantasy element but its a low key fantasy element for a low fantasy novel.
2. The picture links up with the title; reinforcing each other.
3. The mage references the protagonist and another central character.
4. The tri-color magic stream references a plot event and more metaphorically the entire series
5. It looks really freaking cool.

Travis Pennington, owner of, created this fantastic work of art for me and he is a fantastic artist. Not only is he skilled he's quick with replies, quick with turnout, and patient with tweaks. On top of all that he charges an affordable rate. I'm glad he followed me on twitter so I could commission this from him.

He's quick with replies and turnout. I placed an order late one night and the very next day I received a reply asking for ideas. Important events; important images; something that would represent the story inside. I gave him a few and again, the next day, he delivered the first draft. It was amazing. If "A Mage's Power" were high fantasy instead of low fantasy I would have accepted that one and concluded our business. However, its not high fantasy so I asked him to tone the flash down. It was a list of five things that encompassed all but the fundamentals of the picture. Despite that he was back the next day with version 2 and it was greatly improved.  He was about 80 percent to perfect on the second try.

He's patient with tweaks. 'I'm not happy until you are'. Is on his website and he means it. He made five drafts before I was satisfied. Version 1-> Version 2 was the only major change. The next three were tweaks. I wanted something added in the background or I wanted this color changed or something wasn't the right color. After Version 3 I didn't email him for two weeks to gauge reaction to it and Version 2. Then I emailed him asking for another tweak and then a correction. He was prompt and polite every time.

He charges an affordable rate. All of the above cost me only $99. I thought the cost would be in the hundreds. Although I came in during a sale the regular price is still only $169. For such impressive work and unlimited revisions its well worth the price.

I am a satisfied customer. When I launch book 2, "Looming Shadow", I'm going to Probookcovers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What's the Difference

Between fan fiction and published work and I'm not happy with those labels either. I thought about 'fan work and professional work' I thought about 'fan fiction and original fiction' and I thought about 'hard cover' and 'online'. It's hard for me to conceptualize the difference between the two. Not even 'one's published and the other's not' works any longer.

When I was a teenager I read a lot of fanfiction.  First fan sites and then I found It was an extension of the books I read. The difference used to be that the former were amateurs published online and the latter was the work of a professional I could hold in my hand.  As I read more I realized the truth of SturgeonsLaw: '90 percent of what I found in fanfiction was crud'. I reasoned this was because (like me at the time) these authors were immature teenagers with immature skills.  The books I read were written by adult writers whose age has matured their skills. That's why I paid money for the latter and critique to the former.

Then I grew older and my skills matured. The people on my author alert list on grew older and their skills matured. It got to the point where the stuff I read online (still fanfiction) was as good or better than the stuff on my bookshelf (some of it anyway). Around the same time I learned that some people were self-publishing. I learned more about the process and it sounded as easy as publishing at an online archive of original fiction, i.e. This is where the line blurs.

If publishing on a marketplace site like Amazon is as easy and cheap as publishing on a free archive like Fictionpress than what's to stop an arrogant and immature wannabe writer (i.e. ME at age 15) from publishing what they think is a brilliant work of literary art and fully expecting others to pay to read it?

Nothing except their own talent. On the one hand this is great; the only obstacle to (let's be realistic) modest success is the author's determination to refine their skill and get their name out there. No more querying agents and working deals with publishers and waiting perhaps months for both of them to contact you only to get a standard rejection. Anyone with the drive can shoot for the stars!

On the other hand...."heroes that are not yet ready for their journey are forced to turn back until they have matured sufficiently to handle the task." That's a quote from TvTropes' article on Threshold Guardians and I couldn't have put it better myself.  The guardian in this case could be the agent or publisher. Unlike the author, who could be their own best critic, they are emotionally detached from the book and can make an objective decision. A rejection might sting but the writer and their book will be better for it.

I am living proof of this. The sequel to "A Mage's Power"  was reviewed by my Mom and she tried really hard not to hurt my feelings. Even so I felt shaken and lost. I thought the manuscript was great; I planned its story arc, I revised each chapter as I wrote it and then revised the whole book twice over. I thought it was fantastic. My mom didn't think so. I returned to the manuscript to find the problem and when I did it hit me over the head.

Scenes were rushed. Wording was poor. World Building that I thought was crystal clear (because I spent weeks working it out) was not adequately explained. I ended up increasing the length by 1/3 to better develop the plot and basic events etc.  Then I thanked my mom for pointing out the many problems. I would have been mortified if I put that on the Internet for anyone to see.

Of course, now that I've revised it three or more times I'm thrilled that I can use Amazon or Smashwords or whatever to get my book into the hands of fantasy readers everywhere. I'm merely glad someone advised me against launching too soon. THAT, I believe,  is the difference between the two groups. It's not about published status or the material its made of. It's time and effort and patience that separate the successful authors from the rest.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Soul to the Writing

Writing has to have 'soul'. The essence that makes the words more than a simple description of an action is what elevates the story into 'keep forever in the bookshelf of honor' quality. 'Bob entered the room' is stage direction. Its not interesting to read. It makes readers yawn. Any piece of writing whether its a novel or a magazine or a textbook is made better with 'soul'.

Seven years back when I decided to write original fiction, I looked back on the all the fanfiction I wrote and realized how bland they sounded. It was this 'empty feeling'. They were burgers without meat or ketchup or lettuce. It was depressing. So I decided to learn from the masters. I examined their books with more fervor than any academic text. I had to find out what made their writing so much better than my own.

They were more developed for one thing. The events (not just the plots but the individual events) and characters had more sustenance than mine. Going deeper than that the nuts and bolts of the sentences and paragraphs was somehow better. They weren't stage direction. That I know for sure. 'Bob killed the villain' was never described that way. It was more meaningful than that. There was a motion to it; an energy.  I still don't know exactly what it is but I use the words 'effect' and 'flow' to refer to it. Does that help?

Naturally I'm thinking about this as I write this blog post: I have to write this subject without boring you with bland prose, which makes this post harder to write than the others. Its a Centipedes Dilemma thing. I try not to think about writing when writing because if I do  I'll think too much and don't actually do any writing. This is why so why many of my posts are focused on getting 'in the zone'.

When I'm in the zone I write some amazing stuff, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Pen-Ultimate Face of "A Mage's Power"

In an earlier post I announced I was ordering a book cover from Probook Covers .What you see below this line is Version #3.

Two and three were mainly tweaks. This has been the basic form from the start. I was impressed at how Mr.Pennington seized the fundamentals from the start. If I were writing High Fantasy I most likely would have accepted the first version, but as I am writing Low Fantasy, I asked for tweaks.  I like this version because it has the mountain in the background: mountains are a reoccuring image in Journey to Chaos so I wanted to allud to them here.  However, there is an appeal to Version #2.

This one lacks the mountain in the background and the middle color in the 'magic arc' is different. I like this one because it puts the focus entirely on the mage and the title. Neither one is quite perfect because of the middle color. I'd like it to be a golden/golden brown color because that color is a plot point.  I'm split between the two. What do you think? You can vote in the poll to the right.
While you're here, why not check out the free preview?