Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

Caitlyn, a telepath, lives in a world where all paranormal talents are illegal. She is on the run from government ParaTroopers. When Caitlyn falls for Alex, a Normal, and discovers dangerous renegade Paranormals, she must choose between staying in hiding to protect herself or taking a stand to save the world.

I was pretty excited about this book when I first got it, I'm not sure if I was the concept or if I just genuinely liked the author, but I was excited none the less. However, I had to wait to review it, until it came up on the review wait list to read it, and I really hated the wait. 

I have to say that I enjoyed the book. It's a really interesting look at what a world would be like where paranormals are hunted down. In so many of the books I read where paranormals are in it, it is one of two ways 1) the paranormals are hidden, probably to avoid the world Hunted takes place in or 2) The paranormals are "out" so to speak but not really concerned they are all going to be hunted down or anything. So this was a look at what it would be like for paranormals to be known about and clearly thought of as being evil. 

I really love the main character, Caitlyn, she is just kind of everything you want as a main character. I personally think she is really brave. It's hard to put yourself in her shoes, and really think about what you would do in her place. Her and her mother have been on the run for a long time, but even so Caitlyn goes to high school to try and be normal, she could have just hid out for the rest of her life, not made friends with anyone and stayed under the radar. Instead she goes to high school, meets people, experiences life. Plus she uses her powers with the kind of insight and thoughtfulness that you would only expect of someone who is much older. She considers every use of powers very carefully, and about if what she is doing is wrong or against her own personal morals. And in a world where using her powers could be dangerous for her, she still does it to help others, I think it speaks to her character and that she really is brave. 

The novel itself is both well written and fast paced. I love a novel written like this, there is really no point in time while I was reading when I was bored or wished the action would pick up. It was a great pace and kept me into the book from start to finish. Another thing about this novel is the that Rainfield really doesn't pull any punches about any topic. She touches on not just the oppression by the government theme the book synopsis outlines, but also on topics like homophobia (one of Caitlyn's friends is gay) and racism (Caitlyn's love interest is black). So there is something in there for everyone. 

Overall this is a good book, and I can say I am a fan of the authors after reading this book alone. I would recommend this book to anyone. It's a very thought provoking book that touches on a lot of different subjects so I could easily see how any reader would have something to identify with within the pages of this book. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Terri Giuliano Long Guest Post

Today we are joined by Terri Giuliano Long whose book I reviewed a few weeks ago. She has taken the feedback from her first release and revised it for her UK release (The newly edited novel features a new chapter and several new scenes, adding new connections and insights, and tightens the book, cutting 60 pages – all while maintaining the integrity of the original edition). I hope you enjoy her take on bloggers. 

An Ode to Bloggers

Last May, a month or so after I began marketing my novel, In Leah’s Wake, a former agent told me that I would never sell 500 books. A rookie, I had no idea what to expect. When I published the novel, I’d dreamed of selling a 3,000 – 5,000 books, hoping healthy sales numbers would attract the attention of an agent or traditional publishing house for my next novel.

The agent had left New York, but she’d been in the business for a long time, and her words stung. I hung up the phone, heartbroken, depressed. Had I not been in the midst of my first blog tour, I might have pulled my novel off the market that day.

Determined to see the tour through, I soldiered on.  On the tour, I met wonderful, caring people, book bloggers, whose kindness buoyed and sustained me. 

Over the next few months, In Leah’s Wake appeared on hundreds of blogs. Bloggers opened their hearts and spread the word about this quiet literary novel. In August, In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon charts. Now, seven months after my talk with that agent, the book has been in the Amazon top 200 for over five months, and we’ve sold just shy of 80,000 copies.

Book bloggers rock! I don’t know how to say it any better. Book bloggers are the fairy godmothers and godfathers of the literary world. They invest their talent, their energy, and their time into reviewing and promoting books – and keeping dreams alive.

Even today, traditional media refuse to recognize or review indie books. In this very real sense, book bloggers are the heart and soul of the indie revolution.  Their vision, their energy, and their determination have enabled this amazing populist movement to take hold.

Today, we have the great good fortune of hearing the funny, poignant, intelligent voices of new authors from around the world - voices that, just a few years ago, might have been silenced by the gatekeepers of the old guard. These voices reach into hearts and minds, forging connections, uniting us in a community of readers and writers, searching for and finding, through words, the better part of ourselves. Because, truly, at heart, this is what reading and writing is all about.

Here’s to you, book bloggers! You are and always will be my heroes!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scott Rhine Guest Post

Today we have another guest post by Scott Rhine, author of Foundation for the Lost which I will be reviewing in the coming weeks. I hope you enjoy this oh so true post for all of us writers out there!

Your spouse can be your hobby’s biggest supporter or detractor--you can influence which. Realize that writers can obsess over their projects. When you're in the zone, you stay up late, ignoring the world while you type one last page. Is your wife complaining she's a computer widow? Do you have fights about your writing? You need to be creative but she's angry. I'm not an expert, but I've been married seventeen years and there are a few ground rules that might help.

1. Don’t quit your day job. In any genre, you can probably count the number of people on one hand who make a living by writing it. Write because you enjoy the hobby, not because it's the lottery.

2. Agree on boundaries with your spouse. Let her know writing isn't just a phase and it's not going to go away. However, you can agree on limits. Every couple is different and everything is negotiable, but here are some examples:

    + I can type when the kids are at school or in bed.
    + If she watches the kids so I can type on Saturday, I watch them so she can sew Sunday.
    + No computer time with a newborn. They’re only young once.

3. Find out what her passions are and support them. In the movie Phenomenon, we call this "buying her chairs."

4. Pay attention. They call is that because it costs something. If she's upset about something (silent or out loud), ask and listen. Repeat what you heard back to her.

5. Be present. When she's home, be in the same room with her, even if you have to get a laptop. Don’t turn your back. If she asks you a question, put the keyboard down. If you're on a date, don't look at your smart phone.

6. Find reading-related activities to share. We read YA fantasy, Nora Roberts mysteries, and Sue Grafton to each other in the car. My wife has offered to make one of my books into a podio recording with me.

7. Let her know how much you value her opinions and rely on her. Let her be the first reader and first to see sample covers. Mention her in the dedication!

8. When you hit a milestone -- celebrate! When you finish a novel, the hundredth sale on a new book, when you get a 5-star review. Take a moment together away from the computer.

9. Consideration. Learn to write notes by the light of alarm clock numbers. When you get up at one AM with a brainstorm, don't wake her up.

10. Use your writing powers to send her romantic notes from time to time. Hallmark makes nice packs of miniature blank cards, perfect for lunch bags and pillows.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wishcraft by Lanie Kincaid

Delilah Goodman has spent the past year doing what she does best: casting simple spells and trying to get over the heartbreaking betrayal that left her husband and her younger sister dead. Raised as a witch, there’s a lot she can do, and a lot she can’t, so she spends her time working as a pastry chef. She’s trying to heal, but in the meantime she’s become a regular at a bar down the street. And Brandon is just another night that she’ll remember and he won’t.
Brandon Stewart literally doesn’t know what hit him. He knows he went into the bar with his friends and after that . . . he just can’t recall. He does have a vague recollection of a hot blonde and a craving for pumpkin cake. With spiced whipped cream. And chocolate. 
Neither of them can fight the force that pulls them back together. As Brandon becomes more important to her, Delilah realizes that what she’s done is so very wrong. Her own sister altered her memories, and Delilah knows how it feels to be played. She has to come clean to Brandon.

I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review. I was pretty interested in this book to start with because it came across as a primarily romance oriented novel. I have been ready a lot of heavy books lately, and although they all have had romantic elements I was really looking for a lighter romance novel to enjoy. This novel really did the trick for me. 

As I was reading I did notice that there might have been previous books in this series (after some investigation I found out it is a part of a series). I'm not sure if I read this book out of order, I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything if I did, so I really believe you could read this book as a stand alone and enjoy it without feeling lost or confused. 

The first thing that brought me in to the story really quickly, was how much I liked Delilah, the main character. I can honestly say I liked her from the minute I picked up the book, she's one of those characters that you would want to know in real life and be friends with. Delilah has clearly had some bad things happen in her life, and is really just looking for a release or probably a better way of putting it is escape. And it's easy to feel for her and pull for her, and to want her to get her happy ending. 

The man who is Delilah's counter is Brandon, and I really do like him. He's just a normal every day nice guy who Delilah picks up at a bar and never really intended to fall in love with. There is a lot of back and forth between the two of them, all trying to figure out what they really want to do. 

I like that they are both down to earth people and people that you really think you could meet in your own everyday life (all be it without the witchcraft element). Now the book wasn't entirely lighthearted, and in fact there is a lot of for lack of better word, action, between the characters that goes beyond just romance. So maybe the book wasn't quite the light and fluffy I was expecting, but it was definitely a good solid romance. 

Overall, I really did enjoy reading this book. It wasn't an epic romance or anything like that, but it is a great book for those of you looking for a fun read and a little bit of an escape yourself. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Keryl Raist Guest Post

As I have mentioned before, Urban Fantasy Reviews is going to be posting more guest posts by authors in the coming months. The main reason for this is so that you, as a reader, can hear the author's voice and not just mine through reviews. I hope it provides you with more insight to authors. Today we have Keryl Raist, author of Sylviana, enjoy!

In addition to being a writer, I'm also a reader.  (Yes, I know you are all deeply shocked, what with the book reviews and all.)  However, I'm also a reader of book reviews.  I hang out on discussion boards where people talk about books. Over the years I feel like I've sucked up some points about what readers, fantasy readers especially, like, what makes them keep coming back, and what annoys them. Which, since I'm nowhere near finishing the next book for review, I, the newly christened Fantasy Sage, shall share with you.

So, here it is, in all it's glory, the first tip:  If you want the sort of fans that are begging for your next book to come out, make sure you've got a set plot arc.  

What do I mean by this?  Fans like knowing there is a set beginning, middle, and end to the story.  Harry Potter and the..., Twilight, Harry Dresden, and Game of Thrones: the thing these books all have in common, besides legions of adoring fans, is the author set up an overarching plot, then wrote each installment in a way that furthered that plot, but also opened up more questions about what would come next.  None of these stories are/were written with the I'll-just-wing-it-and-see-where-the-characters-take-me method.

I know a lot of authors like to sort of just go with it, write whatever comes to mind, and keep the story going forever. But, if you read reviews of The Wheel of Time, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, or The Southern Vampire Mysteries, you'll notice that many of the bad ones center on a theme of the author has lost the plot, that the later books don't have the same heart, magic, feel, ect... of the first few.

If you'll allow me a bit of comparison... Fans were lining up in droves, spending hours debating what would happen and how for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. By the time we got to that last book all the main players were in place, the epic battle ready to start, and a new quest set to begin. Many of the old threads had been wrapped up or almost wrapped up. The high quest for the Horcruxes and the final Harry V. Voldie fight was the promised end of the series. No matter what you thought of how J.K. Rowling handled Deathly Hallows, the set up for it had fans salivating over copies of the last book.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the highest selling opening of a book, ever.

Now, we're two books away from the end of the Sookie Sackhouse (Southern Vampire Mysteries/True Blood) books.  If I understand how the series worked, originally it was a three book deal, then a ten book deal, and now a twelve book deal.  And it shows.  The first three were very solid. They were mysteries, with a decent twist on a pretty basic arc. Then it was a ten book deal, and Harris got lost. 'Round about book seven it became pretty clear that Harris didn't have a larger story she was trying to tell, and worse, she had forgotten she was a mystery writer using fantasy tropes, not a fantasy writer using mysteries to build tension. She lost control of her plot.  By book ten, where everything should have come to a fairly natural end, she was resurrecting dead plot points in an effort to keep it going for two more books.  Unless she's a vastly better writer than we've seen in the last few books, the likelihood is the only question left by the time we get to book twelve is who Sookie ends up with.  I know, having read the first ten, I've got no real interest in what happens in eleven, and I'm fairly sure I can skip it without too much damage in my ability to understand twelve.  And if you read the negative reviews of the Southern Vampire Mysteries, you'll see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

So, how can we as fantasy writers take advantage of this? Plan your story arc!  Or more precisely, know when and where your story ends, and then end it!  We aren't serial mystery writers. (They play by a different set of rules.) Our readers want complete, or at least completable, story lines.  They want to anticipate what comes next.  They want clues, foreshadowing, the ability to look back and feel clever because they caught the clues and had figured out what was coming next. 

If you know where your story is going, you can use foreshadowing, parallels, and symbolism to the fullest.  You can build the necessary foundation so you're not whipping out McGuffins or Balognium (Thanks, Red Hen) when you've written yourself into a corner. (If you've got your plot properly wrangled, you aren't writing yourself into corners,in the first place.) You can write each novel so that you reveal necessary information and leave some questions dangling to get your reader to come back for the next story.  And that's what readers want.  That's how writing careers are made.   It is vastly easier to get someone to read your next book than it is to get someone to find you in the first place, so make sure that first book hooks them on your story. 

Now, this isn't to say you can't use the I'll-wing-it-and-let-the-characters-lead-wherever technique while you are writing, but, if that's what you're going to do, don't publish until you've finished the whole tale. The thing to bear in mind is there's a huge difference between writing a story and publishing a story. When you are writing, you're doing it just for you. When you publish, you are making a promise to tell your reader a certain sort of story (more on this in the next post: The Contract). So, write however you like, but don't publish until you can give your readers the set story arc they desire.

So sayeth the Fantasy Sage.  Now, go write! ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two Moons of Sera by Pavarti Tyler

Synopsis: In a world where water and earth teem with life, Serafay is an anomaly. The result of genetic experiments on her mother's water-borne line Serafay will have to face the very people responsible to discover who she really is. But is she the only one?

Review: Part I and II 
This week has been full of books with some serious originality, and this book was no different. Truthfully, I heard about this book before I got the request for the review. And like I am sure some of you don't agree with my assessments of books, I was very interested to see if this book was as good as I have heard. It really did not disappoint.

I found the entire premise of the book both fresh and interesting, it was definitely a concept I would not have thought of while still falling into the category of book I like. You have these two cultures at war with each other and then you have Sera. Sera who doesn't fit in anywhere and lives a life in exile. Until one day her life is turned upside down and she has to really enter into a world she has been shielded from for her entire existence.

My one issue with the book was I felt like it was a hard time getting into the beginning. I think its really hard in movies and in books to really entice the audience into isolation. For the beginning of this book you are most just alone with Sera, and in her extremely isolated world. Sure her mom is there for time to time, but really there interactions are very limited. I have to admit that I was wondering where this was going, but then suddenly the plot picked up and fast.

When the action started happening, I started to appreciate all the time I spent with Sera alone on the beach. I could understand all of the feelings she had and her feelings of panic to her life completely changing in an instant. I love when I can identify with and pull for a character, and I really could with Sera. It helped that she was a strong character in her own right. She really had to learn to think on her feet as well as keep herself safe in ever changing situations.

Tor is the other main character in the book, and he is ... well ... interesting to say the least. He has lived in isolation just like Sera so he is a bit on the uncivilized part. It was really interesting to see him and Sera interact in the beginning and find a way to communicate with each other. And of course he brought with him his "dog" Elgon. The two of them are a great combination and it's fun to watch the two of them evolve.

Overall, this is a solid book, and very original. I am looking forward to part III coming out because part II definitely left you wanting more. I would certainly recommend this book for any book lover, but I think the urban fantasy audience would really latch on to this story.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Slip Point by Karalynn Lee

Synopsis: From childhood, Shay had one dream—to join the Space Corps with her best friend and sweetheart, Jayce. When the Space Corps reveals that the father she thought was dead is actually an infamous pirate and rejects her application, the dream dies and she leaves the planet without saying a word to Jayce.
Ten years later, Shay is a pirate herself. She captains her own ship and has earned a reputation as one of the slipperiest pilots around. That's why she's recruited for a dangerous secret government mission. But the cargo she's assigned to smuggle turns out to be a woman with a government bodyguard—Jayce.
Jayce never thought he'd see Shay again, and when the mission forces them together on her ship, he isn't sure he can forgive her for deserting him; but their desire for each other is stronger than ever. Jayce knows he wants to be with Shay, but how can he trust a woman who's both a pirate and the girl who broke his heart?

Review: I received this book as a part of the Net Galley program in exchange for a honest review. I don't read a lot of sci-fi, and this is the second one I have read in just the past couple of days. That being said I can say if these past two books are any indication I will be reading more sic-fi in the future. 

The most important thing to me in sci-fi books is that they have solid world building. I don't need to know every detail of every single element, but I do need to be able to have a working knowledge of the world created. I think sci-fi is a genre where world building is the most important, because if it's not good in sci-fi the reader either is constantly confused or completely uninterested. In this book I was impressed by the world building because I had enough knowledge to really understand the book and the people within them. I was not overrun with details which often leads to me skipping over descriptions to avoid becoming confused by overcomplexity. But I enjoyed reading Lee's descriptions and that says a lot about the quality of writing. 

I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters, Shay and Jayce. I liked the idea behind their relationship, as two friends who are forced apart due to circumstances. After Shay takes off without saying goodbye, both Jayce and Shay go down to radically different paths. It's so interested and exciting to watch the two of them come back together and figure out where to go from their. 

I like Shay because she is a heroine who really knows her stuff. She is smart and as a pirate has the ability to think on her feet. I always enjoy a girl who can hold her own, and Shay is definitely one of those characters. I also liked that she was able to hold her own with everyone else, including Jayce as the story goes on. Jayce was also a solid character, but I think the thing that really made this story work was that everyone felt very organic. 

There is a lot I could say about this book but it would give away so much of a short novella and I would never want to ruin the experience of any future readers. I really think this book would work for people who enjoy sci-fi as well as paranormal romance. It's a really fun and enjoyable short read and I definitely recommend it. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Moonlight Bleu by Renee Rearden

Saari Mitchell sees a psychologist in order to understand why--500 years later--she's still dreaming of her dead lover. Her shrink isn't helping, the nightmares come every time she closes her eyes, and the lack of sleep is interfering with her job at Sacred Heart Hospital.
By day, Dhelis Guidry works as a detective for the new Angeles Police Department investigating the missing or murdered women in the Full-Moon Killer case. In his spare time he hunts rogue vampires as a Tueri executioner.
Brogan Vincent is a Tueri healer. Though he could offer his miraculous talents to the rich and powerful, he has chosen anonymity and peace by only using his psychic abilities among the Tueri.
One look into Saari's tri-colored eyes and both men realize she is Tueri. One touch tells them each she's their soul mate. But can either of them protect her from the Full-Moon Killer

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, and the number one reason behind my enjoyment of this book rests primarily with originality. I love urban fantasy, I love everything about it. I am a huge fan of vampires, werewolves, shifters, and fae. And when I open up an urban fantasy book I am so ready to jump into one or a couple of those beings worlds. So when an author is able to step out of the box and do something out of the ordinary I take notice.

To begin I love the Tueri race as a whole, I have never heard of it before, so I am assuming they came completely out of Rearden's mind. I like the way they are described with the tri-colored eyes, and how they each have different skills. Because Saari doesn't know much about the Tueri, you get basically a Tueri 101 education. And truthfully just the right amount of information about the race, Rearden gives hints about the complexity but never gives away all the secrets. Personally I think this is a smart move, Saari is not ready to know everything and if the reader knew everything I think it would have been an overload of information.

Characters wise I enjoyed all of them. I think part of the reason I enjoy all the characters so much is because the story is told from several peoples points of view. I think this works best because there is a lot of complicated relationships, and if it had been told from say just Saari's point of view it would have been hard to connect with the other characters. Not to worry though, the shifts in who is telling the story is never confusing, and easy to follow along with.

Saari a character I believe has yet to come into her own yet. She doesn't really know who she is yet, so as a reader it's really easy to connect with her and share in her desire to find out more about her. Another reason why I like her is she is not some superwoman, she is someone who has weaknesses, finds herself in situations an everyday person finds themselves in. She's as normal as normal can be for someone who isn't exactly human. She's haunted by a past love (and come on how many of us have been there before although without the curse part), has a day job, and a trusty girl-friend to take her out on her birthday.

As for the men in this story, they are fantastic. It's such an interesting thing to have a "love triangle" if you will, but have it be okay and accepted. And to have everyone, while admit their feelings of jealousy, but those feelings aside. I think it really shows the depth of character for the leading men in this book. I could go into a ton of detail about the men, but so much of the fun in this book going through this journey with them and I don't want to ruin it.

If I had to pick on complaint for this book it would be that the first couple of chapters were a little hard to catch on to. They were good chapters, and kept my attention; but a lot of information was given all at once and I will admit to rereading a few pages just to make sure I got all the details down. It only lasted for 2 to 3 chapters though, and then I had no more confusion throughout the book at all.

Overall, this was a great and unique read. There is nothing I like more than reading something original. To not know what is around the corner. I would recommend this to all urban fantasy lovers and I truly think you will love it because of it's originality.

D.A. Adams Guest Post

Urban Fantasy Reviews has been so lucky lately in getting some quality guest posts. I particularly enjoy this one because Adams does a great job articulating how his journey into writing began. Enjoy!

The Journey of a Fantasy Author
by D.A. Adams

The journey for The Brotherhood of Dwarves series has been long and arduous.  It began in my early teens, when my cousin, Sam, introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons.  The central protagonist of the series, the half-elf half-dwarf Roskin, began as a character I played.  Fairly soon, my D&D group decided that I should be the regular Dungeon Master because they enjoyed the elaborate, detailed quests I would invent, so Roskin morphed into a non-player character thrown into certain adventures, sometimes to assist and sometimes to hinder.  Back then, he was a much different persona than the character in the series, mostly because of my growth and maturity as a person, but his core elements were forged 20 years before the series began.

During my senior of high school, I discovered through the school newspaper that I enjoyed writing, so I decided to pursue it as a career and chose to write fantasy because it had been such a positive influence on my life.  The character Crushaw was born during my early and quite clumsy attempts to write.  I had grand dreams of developing an epic masterpiece around this escaped slave who becomes a nearly invincible warrior.  At the time, I didn’t recognize the Robert E. Howard influence, but now I see that all of the Conan books I had devoured were the genesis for Crushaw.  However, again, the character in the series is a much different one than what I envisioned as a late teen.

Then, I went to college to learn the craft of fiction, and for three years at the University of Memphis, my instructors drilled into my head that genre work was for mindless hacks.  If I wanted to have a “real” writing career, I had to write mainstream literary stories.  Being young and na├»ve, I listened to them and set aside my “childish” dreams of creating epic fantasy.  For the next several years, I diligently focused on developing my storytelling skills and wrote exclusively in a literary style, and while I did produce a handful of short stories that were well-crafted, I struggled to find my voice.  When I went to graduate school, that same notion was reinforced tenfold, and my creative spirit was completely dampened by the experience.  By my late 20’s, I had grown so frustrated, I gave up on writing as a career because I simply couldn’t find my voice.

Then, while watching The Two Towers, an epiphany hit me like a thunderbolt from a blue sky.  The professors who had, with their best intentions, steered me away from all genre work, had also stifled my true creative desire, which was to write fantasy fiction.  Still, at that point, my confidence was so fragile, I didn’t think I had the talent to write anything.  Instead of writing, I thought about what kind of book I would write if I ever chose to give it a try.  I mulled the idea and compiled pages and pages of notes.  At first, I thought about dusting off Crushaw and telling his story as I had originally planned, but because I had changed so much as a person, I found that character too simplistic and stereotypical.  He would have to change if I were to write about him.  Then, I remembered Roskin and thought about writing some of the D&D adventures he had endured from my DM days, but again, that character was too flat.

The moment of inspiration for combining those two characters into one story was the closest I’ve come to a true religious experience.  I saw them both clearly, Crushaw aged and disgraced, Roskin young and arrogant, and knew that I had found something that interested me.  For nearly a year, I built the framework for the series, and from the beginning, I saw it as five books.  Still, I had no intentions of actually writing anything.  At that point, it was merely a hobby, something to occupy my imagination while I taught composition and business communications at a private college.  The true turning point for me, my rebirth as a writer, came when I saw my first son’s heartbeat on an ultrasound.  On that grainy screen, there was this little speck of life, fluttering away at 150 bpm.  Watching that, my creative energy, which had felt extinguished for so long, burgeoned back to life.  I knew in my heart I was a writer and this story I had been constructing as a hobby had to be told, so either that night or the next, I sat down at my computer and began writing the opening chapter for The Brotherhood of Dwarves.

To me, the biggest strengths of the series are the characters’ growth through each book, the intense action scenes, and the smoothness of the narrative voice.  Also, because I wanted the series to be young adult appropriate, there is no profanity or sexual content in any of the books.  As a father, that was very important to me, creating a story that my sons could read without me feeling ashamed of the language or gratuitous sexploitation to draw in readers.  Instead, I’ve tried to develop a story that keeps reader wanting to know what happens next through plot twists and dramatic tension.  So far, the vast majority of feedback from my readers has been positive, and most have expressed that each book is better than the one before.  Now that Seventh Star Press has reissued the first two books, I hope the series reaches a broader audience and more people are able to share in the adventures of these compelling, complex characters.

For more information about D.A. Adams and his series, The Brotherhood of Dwarves head to these links!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sapphire Hunting by J SenGupta

Synopsis: Shadow figures are stalking the population of an English University town. A Physics student can sense the emotions of others. His two best friends notice he is coming home injured and distracted. He is looking for something. What he has already found is magic that connects this world to a sister-planet, and people who can help him.

Review: Sapphire Hunting is a YA book, and let it be known I have nothing against YA books, in fact I like quite a few of them. But I also feel like sometimes they fall a little bit into a trap, where the author feels they have to tone down the book for the younger audience. And while I understand the motivation behind it I often find it to be annoying. I think Sapphire Hunting fell into this category. 

That being said there were good things about the book. The plot was interesting, and I did find myself at some points throughout the book wondering what was going to happen next, and even sometimes wanting to read a little bit faster so I could know faster. About midway through the book the author really finds their stride and the ideas and elements of the book are put forth very well. I could easily see how this plot would work for YA. 

However, I found in a lot of the story I got confused. The beginning and parts of the end really slowed down in pace, and often times felt someone disjointed. What I mean by that is there would be random paragraphs that I didn't feel fit in with the preceding or following paragraphs. When this happened it would really mess with the flow of the book, and I would end up going back several times to see if I had missed something or skipped a page, and when I found I hadn't I was just plain confused. It happened more than once in the book and by the end of the book I was kind of tired of being confused. 

One thing I think the author was trying to do with some of the phrasing was to use really vivid imagery, which is always a good thing in a book. I love when I read a sentence and it's powerful enough to make me come up with a picture in my head. However, I almost think the author was trying to hard here, by using several really vivid descriptive words when only one or two was needed; the result was awkward phrasing. 

Overall, I would say this book is okay. As someone who primarily reads books geared towards adults, I don't think I would recommend it for adult readers. YA readers might enjoy this book though, largely because YA readers are more willing to focus primarily on the plot and Sapphire Hunting has a plot I think would appeal to YA readers. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Barely Human by Trace Riles

Synopsis: Now you see her. Now you don't Recently promoted, Jessie is struggling to get into the groove of things alongside her edgy and more experienced partner. Lately she’s found it increasingly difficult to hide an ability she can’t control, and doesn’t understand. While investigating the murder of a local teen, she discovers the shocking truth about what she really is. Worse, she suspects the killer that continues to hunt teenage girls is closer to her than she could ever have guessed. As she delves deeper into a world where demons, vampires, and werewolves not only exist, but are all around us, unlikely friendships blossom as a group of misfits band together to put a stop to a madman’s murderous rampage.

Review: This is one of those times I really enjoy being a book reviewer. Sure it's great to get books from all different kinds of authors and to have the ability to try out books I don't normally see at my neighborhood book store, but every once in a while a book comes up in my review queue that makes me so happy to do this day in and day out. From the first page I knew this book was going to be one I liked. 

To start I loved the writing in this book. The writing was really smart, nothing was dumbed down, it was compelling, made you want to turn the page. Descriptions where very well done, but not overly detailed. Just overall the writing was good, it made reading the book both easy and fun. 

I loved Jessie as a character, she kind of reminds me of myself a little bit, but only a tad. Riles gives her such a great inner dialogue. When Jessie first describes her partner Ray you know exactly what to expect, that Ray is a hard ass. And every time Ray would get on Jessie's case about something, Jessie's inner dialogue matched what I would be thinking too. Something about the way that Riles writes Jessie makes it so easy for the reader to not only identify with her, but also to pull for her, to be right there in the situation with her. Another great aspect about Jessie is from the very beginning you know there is something "supernatural" about her, after all everyday humans don't "flicker" from one room to the next in their sleep. Of course Jessie has no idea what is going on with her either, so you as a reader get to find out her secrets at the same time as she does. 

I also want to mention how much I like the back and forth between Jessie's point of view and the demon point of view. They contrasted each other so well. And it was really interesting to get to see what the other side of the story was thinking. 

There isn't much more I can say about the book without giving away all the fun tidbits you will want to discover on your own. I will say that it does has a bit of mystery paranormal genre mash up to it, so I think this book would appeal to a larger audience. I would say if you like anything supernatural give this book a shot, and if you like mystery/crime books, this would be a good book to try out the supernatural genres. Check it out!

CLICK HERE to enter for a signed copy of Barely Human!

Trace Riles Interview

Today we are joined by Trace Riles who kindly agreed to answer some questions. Later today I am going to be reviewing Trace's book Barely Human so look for it later today.

UFR: One of my favorite questions to ask is if you had to choose a theme song for Barely Human what would it be?

TR: That’s a really interesting question.  I think I’d have to go with Sweet Surrender from Sarah McLachlan.  The lyrics and haunting beauty of her voice speak to me of a difficult journey she didn’t ask for and is powerless to avoid.  She’s traveling the path whether she likes it or not so she might as well surrender to it.  I think that’s a good parallel for the adventure that Jessie experiences in Barely Human.   

UFR: What is Jessie’s favorite movie and why?
TR: Definitely Ridley Scott’s Aliens (1986).  I think Jessie would be drawn to Ripley, particularly in the second movie of the Alien franchise.  Ripley finds herself the odd person out and not really a part of the team she’s supposed to be leading.  She’s tough and she’s smart but mostly she’s scared of making mistakes that will cost more lives.  Also, Ripley’s desire to do the right thing no matter how terrified she might be is something that Jessie could relate to.  

UFR: If Jessie was in a book club what book would they be reading right now?
TR: Since Jessie is addicted to self-help books I think she’d be reading “Self Matters” by Dr. Phil.  In this book Dr. Phil challenges you to look in the mirror, and see who is truly hiding beneath that face.  Challenging you to think beyond the fears and excuses that have masked the person you’ve always wanted to be.  Honestly, I don’t think Jessie would be able to put this one down.

UFR: Was there any scene or part of this book that was harder to write than the others, and if so why?
TR: Wow, this is hard question to answer without giving away too much.  I would have to say chapter two.  The original draft of this scene was extremely graphic and difficult to write.  It was so scary and sad I knew I had to take it down a notch or two.  I wanted to show the mindset of our antagonist without being obscene.  But he is an obscene character so getting the balance right was difficult.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dark Vow by Shona Husk

Synopsis: Jaines Cord plans to kill the man who murdered her husband, even though killing a Bounty Hunter is said to be impossible. One bullet took away her livelihood, her home and her love. One bullet made by her. Fired from the gun she completed for the Arcane Bounty Hunter.
Obsidian wears the scars of disobeying the powerful Arcane Union. He barely escaped with his life and now lives quietly, in a town the lawmen forgot. When Jaines arrives asking too many questions, he's faced with a decision. Help her or run…again. Obsidian knows that if he flees he'll always be looking over his shoulder. His name is one of the first on the Bounty Hunter's death list.
Yet when Obsidian is offered an opportunity to stop the stone taking over his body in exchange for retrieving the gun, he asks Jaines for her help. Now Jaines must choose: a dead man's vengeance or a living man's hope?

Review: I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I really liked the premise of this book for one simple reason, it's about someone who was out seeking to get revenge and ends up having to decide if revenge is worth getting. 

Jaines is a really interesting and intriguing character for a lot of reasons. Her husband and her worked as Smiths in the book and although warned by her husband that working for Arcane's is a bad idea she does it anyway. This one decision leaves her plagued by guilt, because she made the weapon used to kill the man she loved. I think the guilt she had about the role she played in her husbands death to be the driving factor in her quest to get justice. It's really interesting to watch the story unfold. In addition to that it was easy to really feel for Jaines early on in the book. I felt like I had a good grasp on who Jaines was as a character so it was easy to both like her as well as connect with her. 

The world building and concepts introduced throughout this novel are very interesting and unique. I really liked the way she separated people through their work. Every person has a skill/trade and that is essentially their identity. Unfortunately women don't get to chose, they just take on their husbands skill. This system also helps to explain the way Jaines is as a person. Another unique concept was the concept of Obsidian turning into stone. Obsidian used to be Bounty Hunter, but now he is the one being hunted. He has his magic to aid him but using it now results in turning himself slowly into stone. This definitely makes for an interesting plot development, as Obsidian must think before he acts. 

The one big problem I had with the book was that it felt rushed. This book was on the short side at only 65,000 words and this is a problem I often run into when reading a book of this length. There just isn't enough time to let things develop organically and often times the book reads as rushed. I don't feel that the plot was really rushed, but rather that the relationship between Jaines and Obsidian was. From early on in the book you know Jaines loved her husband and she was devastated by his death, after all it is the event that causes the entire book to take place. But in a very short period of time after his death she meets and falls in love with Obsidian. This whole relationship did not feel organic and in a lot of ways felt like it was pushed upon them. I think there relationship could have worked or read as an organic progression if the book had been longer, but alas it wasn't. 

Overall though this was a good book. I enjoyed the writing, it was easy to understand, I was seldom confused, and I really did like the plot. I would recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a short but enjoyable book to read. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cursed by S. A. Archer

Synopsis:As a private investigator specializing in paranormal problems, London Eyer thought she could handle working for the Sidhe. They couldn’t be any worse than vampires or werewolves or wizards, could they? Oh, how wrong she was. One ‘Touch’ of Sidhe magic and she was cursed. Her only chance to survive is to serve the creep that cursed her against the vicious Changelings out for his blood.

Review: This was a really fun short story, and the first in a series of three. Because it is a short story there is very little I can go into detail about without spoiling the whole thing for you, but I will do my best to discuss broad topics. 

London is a very interesting character to me, she is one of those humans who exist in the world of paranormal. While she is a human she is someone who has contacts with various paranormal beings, which as you can imagine results in all kinds of interesting situations. I like her because I like her inner dialogue, and even though she is a human and without any powers, she doesn't back down from a fight and thinks on her feet. 

Selena was a character who wasn't fully developed but I have a feeling will be back in future installments. Even though Selena isn't a huge focal point in the story, you can tell from the short interactions that she is a bad ass and has a bit of a sassy streak in her. 

One thing I appreciate about this book is that is deals with the Fae, but acknowledges that the Fae can be a rather confusing group to understand. London don't particularly deal with the Fae so she is entering into the unknown. I like that because it was a short story, the author didn't go into a huge amount of detail because it would have just over taken the book. You get just enough information about the Fae to understand what you need to for the short story. 

Overall this is a solid short story, it is a quick read, but still interesting. It ends with just the right amount of cliff hanger, and has quality writing within. If you are looking for a short story to enjoy this would be a contender. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ruby Kiss by Helen Scott Taylor

Synopsis: A POWERFUL NIGHTSTALKER Nightshade hungers to bring the strong and beautiful to their knees beneath the ecstasy of his bite, but he has never known sexual lust—not until he meets Ruby McDonald, the curvy redhead who wields attitude and strength like an ax, and who would be the perfect mother of his children. Caught in a clash between the Seelie and Unseelie courts, he vows not only her survival but also to win her heart.A MORTAL WITH A SECRET Plagued by magic inherited from a father she never knew, Ruby wants answers. Nightshade has them. And when he crashes into her bedroom late one night, the fairy’s silvery eyes, dark intensity, and striking black wings tempt her with a whole lot more: a mysterious world waiting to be explored, a dangerous love that binds her in body, mind, and spirit…and the children she thought she could never have. Ahead looms a choice between freedom and a power some would kill to possess. Should she deny her desires, or succumb to the seduction of… THE RUBY KISS

Review:I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for a honest review. I was interested in this book largely because it has to do with fae. I have said time and time again how much I love the Fae. The main reason why I like books that have to do with the Fae is that there is so much subject matter to work with, there are so many different kinds of Fae, it really allows each and every author to put their own spin on it.

With that sentiment in mind I want to first discuss how the author did in regards to their take on the Fae. I appreciate the wide variety of supernatural beings in this book. Ofter times I feel that when writing about the Fae it's best to focus on a couple of types as to not over complicate or confuse the reader. I can honestly say I was not confused by the amount of beings, there were enough to make it interesting but not so much that it made it to confusing to read either. So I appreciate that on the pure level of the construction of the world within this book. 

I truly believe the concept behind this book could have been better executed. The idea of a daughter wanting answers, and Nightshade having these answers makes for a decent set up. There was really a lot that could have been done with the two characters in regards to that plot point alone. But It just never got there for me. 

I did have some problems with the writing, as much as I hate to use this word, it sometimes very cheesy. One of the big issues I have with paranormal romance books are that either the intimate scenes in the book are either super cheesy or well written, seldom is there a middle ground. For me this book falls squarely into the cheesy category. 

Which brings me to my next point. I felt the writing had a cheesy factor to it and therefore it was very hard to really get behind the characters. Ruby was an alright character, but I never really felt connected to her. And Nightshade just seemed so one-dimensional. And worse there were times he came across as just a dominating male, just for the sake of being a dominating male. 

Overall, the book did not keep my attention at all. There were many times I considered putting the book down and just not reviewing it (but I'm an OCD type, I hate leaving things unfinished). You are of course more than welcome to read this book and disagree with me, but for me this book did nothing for me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna

SynopsisLeann wasn't good enough for her upper-crust in-laws, so they gave her the mansion none of them wanted. Years ago, something or someone in the house killed Leann's brother. Will its violent secrets kill her next?

Review: I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for a review. I have to admit the first thing that intrigued me about the book was the title, and I'm not entirely sure why. The thing that drew me to this book was not just the title though, it was the fact it sounded like a bit of mystery. I really do enjoy mysteries, but my first and true love is the paranormal/supernatural so it sounded like this book was going to be a perfect mix of the two genres.

That being said there were things I liked and things I didn't like, and they ended up pretty much canceling each other out. So I am going to start out with the things I liked about the book. I really enjoyed that general plot of the story, I think that while it is not a completely unique concept it worked really well in the book. I think part of the reason I liked the plot and concept was because the writing wasn't bad. 

I was also really intrigued by the history of both the house and the family, I myself am a big lover of history. I toyed for many years if I wanted to go into English and Literature or History. So any story that has a good history that spans generations is interesting for me. I also have to say that McKenna did a really good job at the historical part of the book. When she references the historical aspects she does it in this great flashbacks that were very well thought out. 

Now the big thing that hurt the book in my opinion was Leann. I prefer in most books that I connect with the main character. That doesn't mean I have to always agree with what the character does but I should be able to connect to them in a manner that allows me to pull for them or at least understand why they were having the emotions they were having. Now there have been a few books where I have no connected to the character that I still liked because I was able to understand them. Unfortunately for this book I neither connected with Leanna nor understood her. I found her to be mostly self-involved and because the book was told from her point of view, I often found that she drowned out scenes that should have had more impact then they did.  

For me I think this book had a lot of promise but just didn't live up to it. The plot was good, and could have been a pretty good book, but Leann overwhelms this book so completely that by the time I was at the end I wasn't really all that interested, instead I was more annoyed than anything. That being said, this is of course my opinion and I am sure this book has an audience that might enjoy this book, so if you are looking for a supernatural mystery with some history built in maybe you should try out this book, you may enjoy it more than I did. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Centauri Midnight by Cynthia Woolf

Synopsis: Kitari ‘Kiti’ Dolana wants justice for her murdered brother. She’s trailed the man responsible to a distant planet where swords outmaneuver blasters. 
Garrick Marcus, Spaceship Captain, is on a mission to hunt down a ruthless killer. The same man Kiti is after.
But Kiti and Garrick discover an explosive attraction that makes it hard to keep their minds on their goals. As they try to bring down the killer, they find that love and vengeance are a volatile mix.

I haven't read sci-fi in a long time, and this was a very pleasant and welcome return to that genre. Another reason why Centauri Midnight was out of my norm is because it's a novella. I don't tend to read a lot of novellas because one of two things happen, it's either really good and I want it to continue on (and I'm impatient for sequels) or I feel like there wasn't enough time to really like the characters and I feel kind of let down. Centauri Midnight falls squarely in the I liked it a lot and want to read more category. Thankfully this was book 3, so I can go back and read the prior ones!

First thing I want to mention is how easy it was to pick up on the world. Sci-fi and epic fantasy world building tend to be very complex that it takes a while to pick up on it, which I have to admit I was worried about since I was coming into this series on book 3. I think it shows the quality of writing by the author when a new reader is able to jump into the series and not feel lost and confused. Woolf gave just enough information as the story went along to explain the past but not enough to overwhelm me.

I really enjoyed the character of Kiti, you could tell from right off in the beginning she is in a lot of pain from the events of the previous books. And from the very first words in the book she is on a mission to get justice for her slain brother. As the story progresses you find out a lot about her past and you really start to identify with her and understand her more. After figuring out her past in the prior books all I wanted for Kiti was to find the justice she wanted and to find a way to allow herself to be happy. I was pulling for her the entire was through the book.

As a male lead, Garrick, is a pretty good character as well. I have said time and time again I hate when male love interest walk over the "being a protector" line and into the "controlling egomaniac". Garrick was the perfect amount of protector. He was there for Kiti whenever he needed to be, expressed concern for her safety but NEVER held her back, he walked with Kiti and not in front of her.

There were moments in the book that were funny or warm hearted, so it isn't just an all action all the time, yes Kiti and Garrick are on a mission, but the novella itself is not one dimensional. I would love to go into more detail about the novella but I feel like I would give away to many spoilers about it for future readers. I think this is a great novella for people who want a quick read. Paranormal romance and urban fantasy readers would also enjoy this novella even if sci-fi isn't their thing. And of course sci-fi readers who like romance should also enjoy this book. It was an enjoyable afternoon read for me that's for sure.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Angelkiller by H. David Blalock

I was very intrigued by the idea behind Angelkiller when it was sent to me for review. There were two reasons for why I was so interested. In the world that Blalock created the war between Light and Dark ended with the Dark winning. I found this to be an interesting way to start the book because it meant the the world was living in a darker set of circumstances and it made the Light side basically a bunch of rebels. The second reason I was interested was because The Army (the rebels in this book fighting against the Dark) has taken this fight into a virtual reality type setting. This was interesting to me because I have seen a lot of books recently incorporating this into their plots. Cyberspace is a world where there are almost no limits, so I thought this was an interesting way to incorporate the fight into a new and fresh realm. 

Jonah Mason, the main character is the Angelkiller, where the main title comes from. Everything is kind of opposite in this book, you would think an Angelkiller would be a bad guy killing the good, but it's opposite. The Enemy is made up of Angels and they are on the dark side not the light. Jonah has been in around for a very long time, centuries, and as a fighter it shows his ability to adapt to the situations at hand. I was curious to see how virtual reality was going to play a role within this book, and as it turned out it came in the form of online gaming. 

I have a very small experience with gaming online (my husband is really the expert), so I have to admit there were times when I did have to ask my husband to clarify something for me. But even without a complete working knowledge of the technical speak I was still able to understand how the plot was moving alone as well as the benefits to conducting their work through this format, anonymity helps protect you. 

I did have a couple things I had problems with in the book though. The book did jump around, which is fine with me, except I did find myself being confused sometimes. Although normally a quick re-read of the past page or so helped to clarify that my confusion. And my other issue was my connection with the characters. I am a reader who likes to really identify with the characters in a story, to really feel their emotions and pull for them. I found myself throughout this book still pulling for the main character but wishing I had a stronger connection to him. But both of these things are minor issues. 

Overall I have to say the writing is good. The concept is fresh, creative, and well executed. I could easily see this book working for a lot of different readers, in fact I could see my husband reading this book and enjoying it, and he is one picky reader! People who have a background in computers or gaming might enjoy this book more than someone without that background, but I could see either enjoying it. This is a solid book, and I truly appreciate the freshness of the idea behind it. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Karen Duvall Guest Post!

Today we are joined by Karen Duvall, who I was fortunate enough to meet through RWA. I hope you enjoy her guest post, as well as check out her books!

Subgenre Mash-up
By Karen Duvall

Remember when the dividing lines between genres were clearly defined? Fantasy. Science Fiction. Mystery. Romance. Literary. Bookstores had to know which section to shelve the books. There were no "in-between" areas of the store. Readers needed to easily find which section to browse in order to find the genre they wanted.

Less than twenty-five years ago, I remember when I'd catch the occasional hybrid book and I'd be ecstatic to have found something new and different. I sought out more that were like them, but it wasn't easy. I wanted my mystery mixed with my things that go bump in the night and a little romance thrown in for good measure. I found a ghostly tale or two, maybe a mystery with a psychic, but I was still hungry for a satisfying yarn that contained all the yummy stuff I wanted to gorge on for my reading pleasure.

Once the Internet became as common as the household boob tube, it got a little easier to locate books that fell within my reading tastes. I was writing by then and working on projects that appealed to my craving for mixed genres. That was all fine and good until I explored the possibility of getting published.

I attended a writers' conference and sat in on a panel of a half dozen editors who fielded attendees' questions. I asked for their take on crossing genres. They all looked at me like I'd just sprouted a third eye in the middle of my forehead. That's when one of them explained, and quite patiently I might add, how important it is for a book to clearly fall in only one genre category. Her very words to me were: "Bookstores don't have a section called 'what the *bleep* is this'." And she didn't say bleep.

Her answer didn't stop me from writing what I wanted to write. And it didn't stop hundreds of other authors from pursuing their insatiable desire to create stories from a widening pool of mixed genre possibilities. It took a few years, but we have finally arrived in a readers' paradise of genre hybrids.

That got me to thinking of all the genre combinations I've seen, or ones that I haven't. Not only are we seeing mixed genres, we're seeing the gamut of centuries-old mythology and folklore from around the globe being used in contemporary stories about the boy and girl next door. We're seeing fairytales retold, old legends renewed, and monsters of all kinds getting a literary facelift. I love it!

Now we can find not only a mix of two genres--like romance mixes well with just about anything--but we're seeing triple and quadruple subgenre mash-ups. And not just in books. Look at all the amazing television shows and movies.

The only subgenres I really doubt can be mixed are erotica and inspirational. Unless I'm missing something, I think they contradict each other. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

A beloved mash-up project of mine that's still looking for a home is my alternate history steampunk fantasy. It's possible that publishers aren't quite ready for this one. I think it's a terrific story that I'm probably going to end up self-publishing someday. But who knows?

I do have a new book coming from Harlequin Luna in March 2012 that's a follow-up to the first book in my Knight's Curse trilogy. It's called DARKEST KNIGHT and is a mash-up tale of angels and sorcery told by a modern day female knight.

Here's a description from the back cover of DARKEST KNIGHT:
After the warrior she loves saved her from a murderous Gargoyle, Chalice watched helplessly as Aydin turned into a Gargoyle himself. Now, free from the curse that enslaved her, Chalice pledges to join her sister knights in The Order of the Hatchet—and do whatever it takes to regain Aydin’s humanity…and his love. What she encounters within their hallowed sanctuary is pure intrigue.

Someone—or something—is murdering her sisters in their sleep, provoking fear and suspicion among the order. Meanwhile, Aydin, unable to stay away, starts haunting Chalice’s dreams, urging her onward. Ultimately, Chalice will be faced with an agonizing choice— one that will tear away at her newfound identity and force her to choose between duty and desire….

Now I have a challenge for all of you. Can you think of any subgenre mash-ups that haven't already been done?


KNIGHT’S CURSE - Publisher’s Weekly TOP 10 ROMANCE PICK for Fall 2011
DARKEST KNIGHT – A Knight’s Curse novel coming March 2012 from Harlequin Luna

Sunday, January 8, 2012

John Abramowitz Guest Post

Today the wonderful John Abramowitz joins UFR for a guest post. When I got his request to review his book, Atticus for the Undead, I was super excited. And a little bit bummed that I had to wait like three months before I could review it (UFR really got busy). You should check out the synopsis, it will make you want to read the book. So on to his post, I hope you enjoy it:

            I'm going to tell you about the biggest problem I had when I started writing stories.
            Don't worry, it's not a problem that shows up in any of the books I've self-published. I'd been trying to write stories for about fifteen years before I was comfortable letting anything I'd written see the light of day. And I'm about to tell you why.
            I was trying to write Great Literature.
            Anyone who's ever been through a middle-school English class knows what I'm talking about. Great Literature has meaning. It has import. It contains layers of symbolism and weighs in on the important issues of the day. It ventures bold opinions on slavery or sexism or the Defenestration of Prague -- well, okay, maybe not that last one.
            And so I went into fiction-making (at the tender age of twelve or so) with the idea that if I couldn't say profound things, I'd better not say anything. The first problem with this line of logic, of course, is that I didn't have any profound things to say when I was twelve (a situation that hasn't changed much now that I'm twenty-nine). Beyond that, though, this led me to try to construct the stories I wanted to tell around the messages I wanted them to have.
            Moral of the story: Don't do that. It's pretentious, you run the risk that your deeper meaning will be lost on your readers, and worst of all, it usually leads to boring reading. Put your energy into telling a compelling, entertaining story. If you do that job right, the meaning and social commentary will flow from there.
            For instance, my latest novel, Atticus for the Undead, has social commentary and opinions in it. It deals with issues of bigotry, the gap between parents and children, and the moral rightness of risking others' safety for your own beliefs. But I didn't write it to do any of those things -- I wrote it because I wanted to put a zombie on trial for eating brains. Everything else flowed from that.
            I'll conclude with one of John's Cardinal Rules of Fantasy Fiction (others can be found here and here). For this one, I'll paraphrase Star Trek: First Contact:

            "Don't try to tell a great story, just tell a story. And let history make its own judgments."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Elizabeth Kirke Interview

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a book called Semester Aboard, by Elizabeth Kirke. It was such a fun read from beginning to end. So when I heard from Elizabeth again, we decided to do an interview. I hope this interview will inspire those of you who haven't read the book to read it, and those who have read it I hope this helps hold you over until her second book comes out.

UFR: When I was reading the book, I wasn't sure if it was intended to be a YA Book or not. As my own personal preference I have a hard time finding YA books I like, but the thing I really enjoyed about Semester Aboard was that it was enjoyable for me and I could easily see it being a great upper YA book. So my first question is Semester Aboard a YA book, or was your goal to appeal not only to adults but to the upper YA audience?
EK: Honestly, I wrote it without a true audience in mind. Semester Aboard actually started out (well, the long version is a lot more complicated, I'll post it on my blog someday) as a "fic" that I was posting on the Original Work section of a fanfiction website. Most of the members were women between the ages of 17 and 26, so I was writing it to appeal to them. I suppose that makes it upper YA by default, but I never really labeled it that until after it was out and people started asking.

UFR: Another thing I loved about the book was the wide variety of "magics" in the book, why did you chose so many different types of "magics" for the book?
EK: Why thank you, I'm glad!  That's another part of the long history of the birth of More than Magic.  I suppose I'm going to have to post that soon to explain it all!  Right from the beginning I wanted a wide variety of characters and abilities.  One of my favorite books growing up was The Hobbit (today is Tolkien's eleventy-ninth birthday in fact!) and one of the things I always loved about was how there were hobbits, and dwarves, and elves, and wizards, etc.  Don't get me wrong, I love books with just vampires or just witches.  That said, I really enjoy books with more than just the usual collection of races. Having a bunch of different kinds of magics allowed me to really expand on the magical world and, I felt, made it a lot more fun to write.

UFR: A question I love to ask in most of my interviews is what would your books theme song be?
EK: That's a tough one. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but a large portion of this book was written with the soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean (the first 3 in fact) playing in the background.  I've spent hours and hours sitting on the decks of ships listening to that soundtrack, and every time I hear it it takes me back.  I also hear songs from time to time and think "Oh, that's SO this character's theme song!" but I'm not sure if I've ever really thought about one for the entire book.  Is it a cop-out to say that I don't know?  I think it's too long (you wouldn't believe how much I trimmed and I still couldn't get it shorter!  Actually, seeing how wordy these answers are, I'm sure you would.) and has too many ups and downs and changes of pace to easily attach a single song to.  Maybe I should go kill some time by compiling a soundtrack!

UFR: Is there a character in the book that has a lot of your personality in it, and if so who?
EK: I think they all have a little of me here and there, although they've all morphed and developed into complex "people" over the years.  I think most of me actually shows up in the (non-magical) events more so than the people.  I often hear the advice "write what you know," so I did.  I've visited each and every place mentioned in the book and experienced most of the (sadly, non-magical again) things.  But, I'll throw some specifics your way, Jen shares my love of history, Dani has my taste in cheesy movies (he's also the older brother I wish I had) , Charlie picked up his blacksmithing hobby because I worked in a blacksmith shop, Mariana and I both felt daring enough to get tattoos in South America, Thomas (and Jon) got Japanese thrown at them because I studied it in college, and TS ended up an Irish/French mutt (hah!) because the Welsh blood in me demanded a UK character and I love France.  Speaking of languages, most of the characters are at least bi-lingual because if I had the time, I'd learn as many languages as I could.  TS is fluent in all of the languages I wish that I knew!

URK: Jen is a so curious and has a huge desire to learn more about the magic world she kind of fell into. How did you find the balance of how much to tell both Jen and the audience about magic?
EK: That was tough.  I tried very hard to stick to the "show, don't tell" mantra, but there were times where I had to just say "This is A and this is B."  As things were explained to Jen I tried to step back and ask, "If this is as much as I say, will the audience understand?"  If not, I embellished and if it was too much, I trimmed it back.  I also tried to only explain what was needed.  One line in particular sticks out.  Jen asks TS something to the effect of "How are you colorblind during the day if you're human?"  The original answer was a long, overly wordy explanation of magic and things.  I looked at it and said, you know, "I may be human right now, but I'm still a magic. And more importantly: a werewolf."  sums it up.  The extra information doesn't need to be there.  The audience can fill it in for themselves.

UFR: One of the great things about you having so many characters in the circle of "magics" that the book follows, is that each person really offers a different emotional response for the reader. I loved reading TS, he really lightened up situations. Was there any one character you had the most fun writing.
EK: I'll agree with you there, TS was loads of fun to write.  It's hard to pick any one character.  I have a ball writing scenes between Thomas and Dani, those are always fun.  Rak, brief though his appearance is, is fun to write too.  I'd probably have to say that the most fun I have isn't just one character, but when it's dialogue between at least two.  At the risk of sounding crazy, when I stick two characters together the dialogue just flows and takes on a life of it's own.  All that said, Dani isn't always the most *fun* to write, but he's got a few skeletons in his closet that make writing him very interesting. I've got more than a few pages lurking on my hard-drive about his life and it was very hard to resist revealing more about him than I did.

UFR: You are in the process of writing the sequel to Semester Aboard, are familiars going to play a bigger role in the next book?
EK: They won't exactly play a bigger role, but Rak will be there from page one and throughout the book.  I have a vague outline/dream (dramatic music) for the third book, in which (keep in mind the second isn't anywhere near done yet) familiars will play a much larger role.

UFR: Jen clearly has a lot left to learn about magic, even though she got a lot of experience in the limited amount of time in this book, she has only scratched the surface. Is Thomas going to continue teaching her?
EK: Well, I'm sorry to say it, but they haven't seen each other!  Semester Aboard ends in August and the second book picks back a few months later, in January, and will be the first time Jen has seen any of the gang since the voyage ended.  But don't worry, her magic and knowledge have already come a long way!  Then again, as you said, she has only scratched the surface.  Thomas and the others still have a lot to teach her.

UFR: One of the things I was curious about when it came to the sequel was how you were going to get the group back together. The semester on the cruise was the catalyst for everyone being in the same place, would you like to give us some hints as to how they find there way back together.
EK: Nothing terribly complicated =)  The gang likes to go on vacation together, so this time they invite Jen along.  I mentioned that the story takes place in January; the plan is to spend a couple of weeks between semesters at a ski resort.  Of course well...they may run into more than just moguls and ice patches...

UFR: Finally is there anything you want your readers to know about Semester Aboard or the upcoming sequel?
EK: First, I'm thrilled by all of the positive reactions I've been getting!  I can't say how much it means to me that people are enjoying it!  You've inspired me to go ahead and write (heads up, it's going to be a mouthful) the full story behind how Semester Aboard came to be. I suppose I'll wrap things up by just saying that if people want to know more about Semester Aboard and the sequel, they can check out my facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/morethanmagic and my blog,
elizabeth-kirke.blogspot.com  The first three chapters of Semester Aboard are posted on the blog.  I've also been amusing myself by filling out internet questionnaires on behalf of the characters and posting them on my blog.  They're spoiler free, so people who haven't read can check them out to get to know the characters, but I think people who have read it will get a kick out of them too.  I also post updates on Book 2 on there, and often have coupons and free copies of Semester Aboard up for grabs.  I can tell you the next free copy will be going when my page hits 400 likes (then, 450 etc etc)

Speaking of which, to thank people for reading, I'd like to offer a coupon code (which doesn't expire for a year!).  If you want to pick up a copy for only .99 cents, head over to http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79269 and enter the code, ZM56D at checkout.

And also, the first 3 people to comment on this with their email addresses will get a code for a free copy =)

Thanks so much for having me, Kate!  I hope I didn't wax on for too long!


UFR: I want to say thank you again for joining us today here on UFR. For people who haven't read the book yet you should check it out, as well as the review of it as well: http://www.ufreviews.com/2011/12/semester-abroad-by-elizabeth-kirke.html. I think readers will appreciate the learning experience that Jen goes through as well as the adventures on the ship. There are a lot of elements within the book that appeal to a wide variety of readers, so check it out!