Saturday, August 29, 2015

Answering Review Request: Burd: The Abduction

Roy House asked me to read his novel "Burd: The Abduction". It is a science fiction comedy that focuses on a rooster man named "Burd" who was altered from a standard egg by aliens. I will examine plot, characters and polish, and then assign a grade.

The book starts out good. There is this pair of aliens on a routine mission. Their dialogue is kinda fun, there is interesting, non intrusive (i.e. no "As You Know" stuff) world building, and Burd is created in a direct and effective manner.
The problem is one of tone. It starts off as this kooky Rule of Funny story but then tries to have a serious plot line without changing anything else.   

For instance, the aliens create Burd for fun ("you know, we've been talking about building a creature from all the leftover material from about a dozen experiments") and engage in Seinfeldian Conversation. Following this is Maria planning a "flaming bag of poop" prank in response to a perceived prank on herself and Viejo Jorge reminiscing on how his previous wife was a literal magic using witch because she would regularly drag him away from a bar after he drunk himself stupid.
The rest of the story is about Nazi (and not the wacky kind), Lizard Men that eat people, their conspiracy to turn WWII into a covert operation to abduct people for this reason  (i.e. the Holocaust victims), and the "Who" or the Gray aliens, have this prophecy of using Burd as a super soldier to beat the lizards. The fact that all of this comes up in the later parts of the story is jarring.

There isn't much of an initial conflict and so there is nothing driving the story forward. It's just a bunch of events happening. There is something interesting and dynamic brewing at the end, but that's the end. The beginning and middle is just "this stuff happened" sort of thing. The progression between makes sense but none of them are sufficiently developed. All of them would make for fine stories on their own but all of them are squished together in little more one hundred pages. I think that Mr.House is only scratching the surface of the potential with this plotline.
The Maria/Dusty/Jeff love triangle, for instance, is only present in three scenes and mentioned in passing a fourth time. Really there's hardly a love triangle at all because by the time it is set up, it is resolved and Jeff quickly becomes more interested in someone else. The circus is another. The group introduce themselves, get jobs, start advertising, and then a riot breaks out over a license to operate a hot air balloon which wrecks everything, gets the circus arrested and Burd on the run. Like the book itself, it's opened and closed without a main event.

 There is no satisfying ending. In fact, there is no ending at all. It's not even a cliffhanger. It's just some ominous words and the story stops. I don't understand the logic for it.  I imagine that book 2 will be much better because the conflict is established and will be further developed through its length. Book 1 is just introductions and random events.

There are some funny parts. Some clever moments. These are the gems of the story so I don't want to spoil them by listing them here.


The characters are pretty thin. I can't tell any of the Greys apart by their behavior, except for one because he is a defector from decadence. The Lizard Men are similar.

The Main characters, in my opinion, are not any better. Maria is a nice girl but beyond that there is little more than "talent as an aerialist".  Dusty is a standard cowboy in the teenage version.  Viejo Jorge is a Dirty Old Man who relies on Crosses The Line Twice for comedy. Jeff comes across to me as a walking conflict ball because he regularly acts like a jerk, the other mains have no reason to include him, and he's a sleeper agent through a complicated backstory.


There is where the story losses the most points. There are a lot of grammar and formatting problems, and even some in vocabulary. Mr.House told me that he sent me the "cleaned up version" but the problems persist.
 A non-exhaustive list:
1. Dialogue is lacking quotes on one end.
2. A character's thoughts are not set apart from narration. This makes it confusing for me to read and it is jarring to shift between narrator and character.
3. "Cannibal" is used in place of "Carnivore".
4. Chapter titles appear at the end of pages or the middle instead of the start of the next one. There is no uniformity to them.

It is hard for me to believe that this story was revised. It looks like a first draft.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Burd" a D+ (I liked reading it but the quality is low)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Journey to Chaos Mana Mutation Menace Update

Yesterday, I made moderate changes to the climax to make sure it made sense; filled in plot holes, scratched headscratchers, and turned off the fridge logic.  Today I'll review those changes. Tomorrow, I'll revise the epilogue. This means that I could send the book out for proof reading as soon as Wednesday.
It is 18 chapters and (according to Microsoft Word) 337 pages long, including front and back matter. I'm including the preview of book 4 (name TBD) in the first edition of this book because adding it later was a hassle.
The professional will take about a month. This will also be the time that I get a cover image (it's a package deal and there's more besides!). At this rate, it will be in the final pre-publishing stages in late September. I will make final adjustments and put it on pre-order for a couple weeks while I arrange advertisement and get advanced reviews in order. Thus, the launch date will be around mid October.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Answering Review Request: Dead Star Frozen Magic

Gregory Mandarano asked me to read his novel "Dead Star: Frozen Magic". It's a medieval fantasy with both high level politics and magic. It's hard to classify because there are two plotlines with genre shifts. I will examine plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.

In general:

The flow of the plot is strange to me because of interweaving narratives and irregular pacing. The first three chapters are from three separate viewpoints in three different locations. Given the way that the first two end, I thought this was an anthology verse instead of a single story.  I had to check its listing on Amazon to confirm this was not the case,

There is a lot of information to get abreast of. There are the  names of noble houses, what they are like, their relations to each other, and where they are in the setting. There's the setting itself with its terms like "Eastern Realm" and "Western Realm" without any geologic reference point to what they are east or west of, I assumed  "Midgard" but I have no idea where that is in reference to anything else. 
There's also the significance of things like eye color and hair color; their importance to houses or ethnics or connection to "the Ancients".  There's the nature and status of magic in this world which shifts from "it's around and used" to "it was here but its dead/frozen" and "that's not magic but scientos!".
Having had too fun much fun creating my own fictional world, I can hardly blame Mr. Mandarano for going into detail for his own. On the contrary, I enjoyed the richness of the setting after I got over the learning curve.
The plot thread interweaving and shifting viewpoints are confusing at first because everyone is somewhere else and doing their own thing with their own cast. This exacerbates the problem of information and vast casts by multiplying them. However, once Axe and Clique and Collin join up, then the shifting becomes an advantage by showing different viewpoints on the same event with the same people but different circumstances for each viewer. This then becomes a enhancing effect because it compounds the reader's knowledge.

There is a total of six viewpoints but two are more prominent than the rest.

Now for the specific plot lines:  

1. Dead Star Rising
There is Havik who is in the far north gathering star metal for fame and fortune. In the process, he unleashes an "obsidian horror" in the form of a black ooze monster and this causes a Psychological Horror/Dwindling Party style plot. It is also In Media Res. His first chapter is near the end of his story and the rest of his chapters are all leading up to that until his final chapter, which shows what happens after that point. This caused me confusion, it's only tangentially related to the rest of the book and leads to foregone conclusion, which makes large stretches of it boring.

However, there is plenty in this plot thread that is not boring. For instance, there is interesting world building going in this plot thread. This is where the reader learns about the upper plot structure-the cosmic godly struggle thing-instead of the routine human politicking. Havik's mental unraveling is also well developed. He is confronted by the supernatural at every turn and yet he clings to Scientos and reason out of family pride, and yet, these very qualities lead me to believe in the supernatural.

I feel that this should have been its own separate book because it has little to do directly with the rest. It doesn't share any characters and is only useful for explaining where that "black stuff" that corrupts living things comes from but even this is only relevant after the peace summit plot thread which is several hundred pages in. I think it would have been a great companion book as a prologue.

The end for this plot thread is satisfying. I had a feeling something like it might happen because in this genre, that is the sort of conclusion that lends a final twist while remaining plausible.

2. Peace Summit

The Eastern Realm and the Western Realm are gathering at Stormfist Stronghold in Midgard for a peace summit. There is a lot to do about this and it occupies Clique, Collin and Axe for a good chunk of the story. There is political intrigue, "diabolical" plotting, and a good deal of poison going around in goblets and daggers. This is all interesting stuff and I liked watching it develop. The problem is that it goes nowhere.

The Black Seed Plague that Havik unleashed overtakes the narrative and the summit and its politics are never mentioned again. Thus, as good as it is (and it is very good!) in the end it feels like a plot device to gather the characters together.

3. Fresh Doom

A Black Seed Plague; an evil god trying to escape its prison; a supernatural disaster; a corrupted world tree; all of these threats come up over the course of the story. They are introduced and nothing more. This is because all of them come from the secondary plot thread of Havic. He does not resolve any of them and instead they supplant the Peace Summit. It is not resolved there and instead the book ends on a lesser cliffhanger.


This cast has Loads and Loads of Characters with no central protagonist or main cast so I will go into a couple at brief.

Axe Treefort is  The Cape and The Ace. He's like an in-universe gamebreaker because he can't be killed in anyway and he is skilled at anything he puts his mind to (except dancing). This means he rarely faces challenges so simply as "kill that guy". He has to do so with handicaps like hostages, or after performing a superhuman feat simply to reach his enemy, or his enemy has magic to counter his strength and skill.
He's a great guy and  a humble guy. One time he turns down a knighthood. He's in the Royal Huntsman For Great Justice.

Clique Gravious is a pragmatic anti-hero. He uses a scythe in combat, which is cool, but he notes that it is most useful in wide open areas and against large targets like cavalry. He also has something of a Spider Sense, which certainly comes in handy in this Cloak and Dagger setting, but because he is Incompletely Trained, it is not gamebreaking like his master's abilities would be.

Havik Davenport is an Agent Scully who is beaten over the head with scary magic and frightful corruption until he losses this status. He is a devoted worshipper of Scientos! He's also ambitious and cunning, playing mind games with a deity.


I found two or so grammar problems. In 500 pages, that's impressive.
I had a problem rating this book and that problem is the pacing. Taken separately, I wouldn't have any trouble giving all three plot lines an A+, but they're not separate. They're interwoven. This throws off their pacing, creates foregone conclusions within the book, and drags out each one of them to make the story longer. Then one of them has a cliffhanger, yet that cliffhanger is mitigated by something that happens shortly before it and the book itself does not end on a cliffhanger.

Trickster Eric Novels gives Dead Star: Frozen Magic a B++ (This is unique at Trickster Eric Novels as a compromise with myself)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Starting the Post-Beta revision for Mana Mutation Menace

I feel good about this draft. After splitting it off of Looming Shadow, adding a new arc to its beginning, rewriting everything that followed to reflect the fact that it is a separate new book, checking the rewrites, and then receiving affirming and constructive feedback from beta readers,  I feel like this book is nearing completion.
Mana Mutation Menace was originally the second half of Looming Shadow. I had this different plot arc in mind when I wrote it that stated Ceiha would be the halfway point. To my surprise, the plot that I began the story with resolved itself halfway through. Something else took its place. The result was a single book with enough content and plotlines for two (or three). I struggle with myself about whether or not to  break it up. I didn't want to create a cliffhanger and my mind focused on this particular set of objectives that needed to be accomplished to follow the ultimate series outline and within the number of books I had planned. In the end, I worked something out and both books are much better for it. Both are more focused and more concise.
Because Mana Mutation Menace was part of Looming Shadow, it has been revised many times. The one I'm on right now is only the second time for itself but more like the seventh or so time in the total life of this WIP. As I re-read it now, I am pleased with what has finally emerged. The plot has taken a precise shape instead of my vague ideas. That's the issue with starting out a story; you have ideas and events for those ideas but you don't have the nuts and bolts. How it's going to happen in that bottom layer is a mystery and now I can see it shinning. It will still need to be polished by the proofreader but in terms of plot and the characters developing through the plot, I like it.  My beta readers have been helpful in bringing this about.
Ever since the disastrous first chapter of A Mage's Power, I have lived in fear of something making sense to me, the author, but baffling and/or alienating my readers. I spent much of my non-day job and non-sleeping hours doing something that involves this fictional universe. Some days I set on this metaphysical, logistical, philosophical or magical mechanical problem and work it out in a way that is consistent with the established Rules of the Verse (Magic A Is "and should stay" Magic A). Because of this, I may be blind to the perspective of someone less knowledgeable about his verse than myself (i.e. everyone). One of the benefits of beta reading is that someone can point this out. They can also point out plot weaknesses or character failings that I missed. In fact, one of the betas IDed two trouble spots that passed under my radar. Finally, they can tell me whether or not it's good or not. A basic level of fun, quality, enjoyment.

As of this post, I am on chapter 6 of 18.