Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cause I Don't Have Enough To Do

The creator of Fantasy-Faction, the fantasy book lovers' website I've been writing articles for, has just made me one of the new mods for the forums! So now I can abuse my power...I mean help people with their problems. ;D

Speaking of Fantasy-Faction I just sent in my next review and will be working on a third this weekend. It would have been sooner, but my kids picked this week to be sick.

The review I just sent in was of Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I did a review of the story itself and a short comparison between it and the first book of his other series Furies of Calderon.

Chicago’s mean streets are probably the last place you’d think to look for a fully certified, practicing wizard, but that’s exactly where Harry Dresden decided to set up shop. You’d think being the only wizard listed in the windy city’s telephone directory would make him a pretty popular guy. It turns out, however, that when most people see Wizard listed they tend to think he is the kind that pulls rabbits out of hats, not the kind that solves cases using true magic.

So, with the rent on his office and his apartment both a month overdo, Harry is surprised to get two clients on the very same day! The first a woman named Monica searching for her missing husband, the second Lieutenant Murphy of the Chicago police department needing his ‘special’ expertise in the case of a double homicide. The first case seems to fizzle out soon after he starts the investigation, but the second drags him deeper into Chicago’s criminal underbelly then he’d ever wanted to go. Mafia, supernatural creatures, powerful spells, and magical cults stand between him and the answers he seeks. Can Dresden find the murderer before they kill another victim? And can he do it without getting himself killed in the process? Or will the gathering storm spell the end of Chicago’s only practicing wizard?

* * * * *

Storm Front by Jim Butcher is the first in The Dresden Files series, but even as a standalone book it’s a great read. The story is a typical noir detective novel, but the addition of magic gives it an added level of interest. I think the thing I liked about it most was that the magic made total sense in the setting, which seems weird even when I think about it now. You would imagine, for example, that if a wizard ran a detective agency he would have an unfair advantage over his competition and do very well for himself. But just like technology sometimes makes things harder than they should be (like when my computer crashed halfway through me typing up this review, requiring me to start all over again), magic can be a useful tool but it doesn’t solve all of your problems, and sometimes it can even make things worse.

Harry Dresden isn’t a successful, respected member of society, using his magic to solve the world’s problems, he’s a poor, frustrated private detective struggling to get enough money to pay his rent and buy himself (and his cat) food. And that is exactly why this book is so good. Harry Dresden is the perfect guy to root for. He is honest, chivalrous, hardworking, and he still gets dumped on throughout the entire story. You want him to succeed, you want him to find the killer and escape whatever predicament he has gotten himself into this time. His easy to relate to, snarky personality makes him one of my new favorite characters and I will definitely be reading more of this series.

You might remember I reviewed Furies of Calderon, the first book of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, last month. There has been a lot of talk in the forums about which series is better. Well after reading the first book of each series right after each other, I’d like to give you my thoughts on the discussion. I gave Furies of Calderon 4 out of 5 stars, which is exactly what I’m giving Storm Front, but for completely different reasons.

Storm Front was a great book with an awesome main character and a good plot. But the side characters aren’t quite as interesting as the supporting cast in Furies. And I will admit here, I’m not as big a fan of urban fantasy as I am of traditional fantasy. If you are an urban fantasy fan, or a noir mystery fan for that matter, I think Storm Front approaches five-star status rather quickly. I also think that Butcher is more comfortable writing in the modern setting and because of that the story in Storm Front seemed to flow a bit better then in Furies.

In the end the biggest difference between the two, is a flavor difference. If you like your fantasy epic with fantastic landscapes and great battles then try out The Codex Alera series. If you like an urban, gritty fantasy with intrigue and mysterious goings on, then definitely try out Storm Front and the Dresden Files. But whichever way you lean, I would suggest at least reading the first book of each series. Because both are great stories with great characters, and really that’s what awesome books are made of.
The next book I'm reviewing is The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. I'll let you know when they all get posted. :)

Last night instead of working on my story, which was what I really wanted to be doing, I worked on my query for the Angry Robot Open Door Month. Which is this month. Which I knew about since the beginning of the month. Which is almost over.

Yes, I know I should have started it earlier, and I know I'm going to be rushing to get it done. But the prospect of having to essentially write a book report for my own book was daunting at best and down right scary at worst. I have so far gotten the easy parts done. I've written my name at the top of the paper and attached the first five chapters as they've requested, but just like with the pitch I did for the Amazon contest, summing up an almost 100K word book I just finished writing is proving to be incredibly difficult!

This time, thankfully, the publisher wants a two page summary instead of a 250 word pitch. That makes it a little less stressful, and gives me more space to breathe, but it doesn't seem to be adding to the easy of the writing. I can see why some people spend just as long on their pitches and queries as they did writing their stories in the first place!

I do have one question about this particular query. I think normally your query is your email to the publisher or agent. In this case, they want the whole thing to be an attached document. So if you were me, what would you say in the email the attachment is attached to?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oh yeah, I have a blog!

Actually I have two blogs, so you'd think I would remember to update this one more often. Oh well. Anyway, you'll be proud to know that I went back and re-read my last post before writing this one, so there is a slight chance I won't be repeating myself. Wonders never cease!

I finished my latest edit/readthrough of both books. The first book went well, the only thing of import that I realized is that I have yet to name the world or the kingdom that my story takes place in. It just never came up!

The second book, which is now about half finished is another story (Haha story! Writing joke...sorry I'm in a mood). I found a whole scene that needs to be completely rewritten. And it's a scene at the beginning of the book so I have to make sure the status quo remains the same when the scene is over, even though I need to sort of change the tone and the direction of the whole section. Yuck!

I'm also working with my brother Tony on the book covers for all three books. He's a graphic artist/illustrator and actually designed the logo for my Autumn2May blog and my 2/tree avatar. It's fun so far, though I think I might be driving him a bit crazy with it. All's fair though, he drove my crazy till I got married and moved out of my parents house.

I'm also going to be working on two more reviews for Fantasy-Faction. I think I know what books, but I'll let you know when I'm 100% sure about it.

That's it for now I guess. Have a great day!

Hand Stamped Necklace by KristyLynnJewelry

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My First Review!

Once again I have come to this input screen without re-reading my previous posts. Apparently I have no long or short term memory to speak of. Anyway, if I mentioned this before, just pretend you didn't hear it yet.

I belong to a fantasy website called Fantasy-Faction. They have an awesome forum and do article and book reviews on all things fantasy. At the beginning of February the man in charge put out a call for people to write up reviews and articles for the site, so he didn't have to do all of it himself. I was one of the people lucky enough to get picked! So now, once a month or so, I'll be writing a book review for the site. And my first review just went live today! I reviewed Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher.

A single grain of sand can tip the scale. A single beat of a butterfly’s wings can add just enough wind to create a tempest. And the single action of one boy can change the fate of his homeland forever. Of course, that’s not what Tavi was thinking about when he shirked off his responsibilities for the evening to collect flowers at the request of the most beautiful girl in Bernardholt. But even as the ‘yes’ left his lips, the wheels of fate were already turning, propelling him forward towards a greater adventure then he could ever have imagined.

Tavi’s grandest hope for his future was simply to attend The Academy and make something of himself using his brains and wits. No one in Calderon Valley thought he would ever amount to anything. He was fifteen years old and still had no furies of his own. His aunt had a water fury and his uncle had both a wood and an earth fury. Even their simpleton slave Fade had a metal fury and some capacity to use it. But he would show them he could do great things even without an elemental fury helping him, if only he was given the chance.

However, there are consequences for every action, and his uncle’s anger for this one irresponsible act could ruin Tavi’s chances of ever leaving the valley. But how could Tavi have known the trouble that finding the sheep the next day would cause? How could he have known the great plans he was about to disrupt and the powerful eyes that would soon be focusing in on only him?

No one was supposed to be that deep in the pine hallows that day. No one was supposed to see the single Marat warrior that had crossed through the pass into the valley. And no one should have been able to escape him even if they had. However, as Tavi was about to learn, the simplest choices can have far reaching effects, and even a simple ‘yes’ can change history.

* * * * *

This was an interesting book. The plot, while not complicated, was good and the world was typical high fantasy, with just enough uniqueness to make it interesting. But the thing that made this story so hard to put down was the characters. Each person, no matter how small their roll seemed at first, had a greater purpose and their own unique challenges to overcome. They struggled through their normal lives, then when trouble came they faced danger and hardship as best they could, striving to rise above the everyday and reach their goals no matter the odds. And while most stories focus on some highly talented or gifted person destined to bring about great change in their world, the main character in this story was just the opposite.

Not only was Tavi young and inexperienced, he was also the only person in remembered history to not have an elemental fury companion. He was, as far as everyone around him was concerned, completely helpless, someone to be pitied and protected. Definitely not the type of person who normally sets off on a quest to save his homeland, or at least not the type that does so and returns to tell the tale. But it’s always more fun to root for the underdog. While he doesn’t possess the same gifts as everyone else, he still shows time and time again how a little courage and some thinking on your feet can make up for a lot in life. And unlike other books where the main character starts off magicless then awakens during story, Tavi stays furyless for the whole book. That somehow makes him even more appealing as a main character, because it’s easier to relate to him and makes his triumphs that much more triumphant!

The magic system in the story is also very interesting. It consists of spirits called furies, elemental beings of earth, fire, water, air, wood, and metal. They can affect objects of their specific element, giving the owners of air furies the ability of flight or the owners of earth furies the abilities to shape and move stone. Everyone at some point in their early teens or younger becomes bonded with at least one of these other-worldly creatures. Well, every human does anyway. The warrior tribes of the Marat that live just outside the Calderon valley do not have furies. They instead have animal totems, great beasts that they commune and speak with as brothers and sisters. They are not really human, and as such are treated like wild savages by the people of the valley, who drove them out just over fifteen years before the story begins. It is this tension between the Marat and the humans that threatens to erupt the entire valley into war.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, mostly because of the wonderful characters and how easy it was to keep reading about them. They could grab you enough to keep reading in just a few short sentences and not let you go again for chapters and chapters. But by the end of the story it still had not reached 5 star status, simply because not a lot happened in this book. Sure it was 500+ pages long and I would have kept reading past that if it had been longer. And there was plenty going on, lots of danger and intrigue, but the plot portion of the book was very short and you get to the end of the book with a lot of, well, loose ends left. Now granted, this is the first in a series and I am definitely going to read the rest of it, but as a stand-alone book it’s just a little light on plot. But I think if you like character-driven stories and high fantasy; this would be a good book to try. I also have it on good authority that the next few books in the series are just as good, if not better then the first, but that’s a story for another day.

I'm not sure what I'm going to review next, but I'll let you know when I've decided. You can see my review on Fantasy-Faction here. There are also a bunch of other amazingly cool articles on the site, and I suggest you check them out!

In other news, I didn't make it to the second round in the Amazon contest. I was bummed at first, but I'm cool with it now. There were so many other amazing entries with ridiculously good pitches that I'm not really surprised I didn't make it. And since all they looked at was my pitch it didn't really upset me as much as if they had rejected my actual story.

Since I'm now on my own again as it were, I've started re-editing my first book. I just can't seem to leave well enough alone. I have ulterior motives this time though. I wanted to re-read it to get back into the flow of writing and even out my prose a bit (still too many adverbs).

And I still don't know how the whole story ends, but I have decided to keep the two books separate for the moment. I only split them originally because of the word limit in the contest, but I really do like the way the first book ends and the way the second book begins. So unless the story ends much sooner then I think it will, I'm going to keep them separate. The way it's looking at the moment I'm going to be running this story into a third book anyway.

That's my life at present. I have to make a decision in the near future as to what exactly I'm doing with these books when they're done. Self-publish? Submit some queries? I have no idea. Any of my readers out there have any experience and/or suggestions on the matter? All help would by much appreciated!

Have a great day! :)