Stormdancer: The Lotus War Book One, by Jay Kristoff, has been on my to-read or listen-to list for a long time. Prior to the book's release, the book cover illustration caught my eye and I read the description. The idea of Japanese steam punk intrigued me in many ways. I've never pre-ordered a book because my list of books to read is already too long, but I did put it on my wish list.
After the book was released, I kept coming back to it but never quite found the time with so many other things going on—family, work, reading, writing, and getting through life in general. Anyone familiar with my blog or my reviews will know that I'm a big proponent of audiobooks. Part of the reason I like to listen to books is convenience, but I also just really enjoy the medium of storytelling. (Voice actors rock.) So I purchased my audiobook copy and began to listen, even though I was in the mood for crime fiction. I had just finished an excellent novel in that genre.
So when I began to listen to Stormdancer, the story was starting with a couple of disadvantages. The newness of the idea and my first impression of the book cover had worn off and I was really in the mood for a murder mystery or crime drama of some sort. The extended courtship of this book definitely paid off. Stormdancer is one of the best books I've listen to or read in a long time. It fulfilled my expectations and surpassed them.
As with many books of fantasy and other types of speculative fiction, I am often overwhelmed in the beginning by scene setting and world building. Perhaps it is because I read so many books that I have less and less patience for description. Now, that makes it seem like the description wasn't good in Stormdancer, which is definitely not the case. Storm dancer is a vivid world that is built carefully and thoroughly. It meets one of my main criteria for fiction, in that I feel I can daydream there for extended periods of time. For this to work, there must be interesting and dangerous characters in addition to the world description.
Early in the story, the characters take life and the stakes they face increase steadily. Jay Kristoff kept up the pressure until the end of the book, and I found myself lost in the fictive dream. I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series and hope it can match the quality of the first.
Cop Town is the first book I've listened to by Karin Slaughter. I am now a fan for life. The obstacles that Kate Murphy faces on her first day in the Atlanta Police Department in 1974 are intense and she has a lot more to her character than first impressions suggest. I really liked her family and some of their interactions. Kate handles herself well in a time and place where women are definitely treated differently than their male counterparts. It's almost impossible not to cheer for her as she faces killers and bullies. My favorite character, however, was Maggie Lawson, a five-year veteran of the police department who has the added burden of being part of a family with a long law enforcement tradition.
Anyone interested in reading or listening to Cop Town can see how intense in the basic subject matter of this book's plot from the description, so I won't go into that. I don't like to do spoilers anyway. I will say that Slaughter’s research into law enforcement seems to be excellent. Karin Slaughter is now on my top five list of crime fiction novelists. I'll be reading more books by her. (Kathleen Early did an excellent job narrating this book.)
First of all, I want to thank Britt Ringel, an author a admire for his skill at crafting military space opera. (His books make me feel like I'm serving on a Brevic Republic Fast Ship). Britt invited me to answer a few questions, and I said, "Hell yeah, I want to be part of this tour!" (Scott Baughman started this blog chain off, so make sure to check out his web page Write Great, Scott!)
1) What am I working on?
As it happens, I am about to release a new urban fantasy / crime thriller called Die Like a Man. This story is set in the same universe as my Dragon Badge series, but is a stand alone novel. The main character has an exceedingly dark past he is trying to overcome and learns people he thought he killed are hunting him. I just had it edited using the BZ Hercules Triangulation Editing Service (highly recommended). The book cover for DLAM should be ready in about a week and I hope to publish by August 1st at the latest.
As I was waiting for edits to come back on that project, I began working on Hellsbreach, book three of the Enemy of Man series (aka The Chronicles of Kin Roland). This book is very exciting, because it is the first in the series that takes Kin Roland and his companions off the planet of Crashdown and into the larger universe of the story. There are some great new characters. One of the favorite parts of writing Hellsbreach has been Rickson's story. He's joining Earth Fleet and experiencing the brutal training of a planetary forces trooper.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'd like to list a bunch of incredible qualities of my science fiction writing that would make everyone immediately purchase the entire series. I suppose the main difference is in my basic writing style. I push the pace. The best thing I've done is develop the characters through action and dialogue. Each time I sit down to write, I focus on what I'm good at but try to improve certain areas. One of the reason's I admire Britt Ringel's science fiction, is that he really knows the details of military operations. I never had the privilege of serving in the military, so I'm still learning. My writer's pledge is to strive for as much realism and believably as possible, which means reading a lot of science fiction and doing research.
Now, my urban fantasy is unique. Which has been a bit of a problem. I once pitched a novel to an agent, Louise Fury, at a conference and she asked why I thought my novel was urban fantasy. (It wasn't Dragon Badge, but similar project I've been working on for years.) She then told me that when she thought of urban fantasy, she thought of "book covers with tattooed chicks with swords". (That's not an exact quote, but pretty close.)
My point is that a lot of urban fantasy has romance or chick-lit influences, or perhaps fits the young adult genre. I read and enjoy both. However, my version of urban fantasy leans toward horror with a touch of police procedural. That's what I know. That's what I write. I'd like to be the urban fantasy version of Michael Connelly someday...and learn to fly like Superman while I'm at it.
My urban fantasy is written for adults. There is violence, profanity, and some sexual situations. None of these things are what the stories are about, but it is what it is. Stephen King and similar authors have a lot more of it. Yet I feel people should know what they are getting into when they buy something by me. Dragon Badge, like most of my writing, is not something for kids.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Creating fiction is a passion, a calling I've heard for most of my life. I decided a long time ago to write what I enjoy and pay the bills with a regular job if needed. My writing style is influenced by stories I've enjoyed and my life experience.
4) How does your writing process work?
I usually have several stories going at once. Once I have an idea, I write until I've explored the characters, setting, and possible plot. Then I outline using a four part structure advocated by Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. After, and sometimes during, the first draft, I analyze scenes and themes using the Book Architecture Method by Stuart Horwitz. I revise and edit using the Serenity Software Editor and the Pro Writing Aid.
Then I send the manuscript to professional editors, either Samantha LaFantasie or BZ Hercules. I recruit other beta and proof readers when I can.
I've invited Josh Hayes and Jim Denney to participate in this tour and encourage readers to check them out.
Jim Denney is the author of the Time Bender series for young adults and also writes an excellent series of nonfiction books on writing; including Writing in Overdrive and Write Fearlessly!
Josh Hayes is a new writer with great potential that will hopefully be releasing his first book soon.
Charity Parkerson (Author)
Hollie Jackson (Narrator)
Last week I listened to Inoperative: Cyborg One and probably enjoyed the experience a little too much. Such is the way of well written erotica. Shall we call it a guilty pleasure? The vivid, exciting scenes definitely caught my imagination.
Why did I like this story more than other erotica? The answers lies in the characters and the plot. I felt there was something at stake, and that the hero and heroine were going to face the danger.
I highly recommend this story for fans of erotic fiction who also want a great story. Charity Parkerson does a great job and I look forward to reading her books (especially more in the Cyborg series).
John Steinbeck published East of Eden in 1952, and considered it his best work. As a Nobel Prize winning novelist, his opinion has serious weight. The story covers two family histories in the Salinas Valley, which is a favorite location of Steinbeck. On that note, I tried to read Tortilla Flats years ago and couldn't get into it.
East of Eden, on the other hand, enthralled me the first time I read it (about ten years ago) and delighted me when I recently listened to the audiobook version. During the first few chapters, I started to wonder if I had changed as a reader during the last decade. I've certainly read more and studied the craft of writing with ever increasing intensity.
So how was round two of this classic novel?
At first I marveled at the amount of physical description and information dump. But then I'd say to myself, "This is Steinbeck! You loved this book the first time. Maybe the draconian rules of writing well don't always apply, especially for a literary great who clearly knew what he was doing."
Despite my proclivity for reading too much as a writer, I relaxed and enjoyed the show. I've only been to the Salinas Valley once, as a child--about the time I started writing, actually. Steinbeck brings the setting to life vividly, and though there is a lot of backstory and general information dumped into the description, it works.
Regardless, the first chapter is almost entirely description. Weird, huh?
After a time, the characters I remembered from the first time I read the book began to take the stage. Evil Cathy (Kate) Aimes, gullible Adam Trask, wise Samuel Hamilton, and my favorite, Lee the Chinese servant who raises Aron and Caleb, and Abra who loves Lee like a father and struggles to understand the brothers.
I loved this book the second time. I plan to read a lot more Steinbeck in the years to come.
I decided to read Blood Skies after enthusiastic recommendations by Danielle Young of the Consuming Worlds blog. When she announced she was hosting a blog tour for the seventh and final book in the series, Vampire Down, I was intrigued.
I've never been able to jump in at the end of a series, so I picked up a copy of Blood Skies and started reading. My first impression is that Steven Montano has an incredible imagination. My second is that the Blood Skies series definitely fits the dark fantasy genre in all its dramatic glory. Montano put serious effort into world building and character development, and expresses his knowledge of military small unit tactics. The story takes off quick and shows a world changed by a cataclysmic magical event called The Black resulting in humankind's struggle for survival. Wizards, warlocks, and military commandos battle against vampires and a host of undead
creatures using everything from assault rifles to more exotic devices powered with steam and necromancy. Magic, specifically human magic, is important to the finale. Montano describes the more important tools of the trade in some detail. Given the intensity of the battles Cross and his Southern Claw Alliance squad mates face, weapons and the soldiers who bear them have a short life expectancy. Before long, Cross is racing to save his sister Snow, and also the magical spirit that has lived with him since he was a child (the spirit doesn't have a name). Not everyone is going to make it home alive.
It is hard to describe how many bad things happen to Cross and his companions.
In the world of Blood Skies, little is remembered about the past, before The Black. The protagonist, Cross, a warlock assigned to an elite military squad, must find a traitor that has plans to betray humanity to The Old One and the vampire nation. In the end, Cross will determine the fate of mortals everywhere.
I enjoyed this book and will be adding the rest of the series to my reading list.
(Though I am reviewing this as part of a blog tour and could have obtained a free copy, I purchased the book because I wanted it on my Kindle & Kindle Phone app, and also because I don't mind spending money on books. The last time I checked, Blood Skies was available for free anyway.)
The Blood Skies series
Blood Skies, Book 1
In the time after The Black, human survivors of the Southern Claw Alliance clash with vampire legions of the Ebon Cities in a constant war for survival. Earth as we know it has been forever damaged by an arcane storm that fused our world with distant realms of madness and terror. Things that once existed only in our nightmares stalk the earth.
Now, humanity is threatened by one of its own.
Eric Cross, an enlisted warlock in the Southern Claw military, is part of an elite team of soldiers and mages in pursuit of a woman known as Red -- a witch whose stolen knowledge threatens the future of the human race. The members of Viper Squad will traverse haunted forests and blighted tundra in their search for the traitor, a journey that ultimately leads them to the necropolis of Koth.
There, in that haven of renegade undead, Cross will discover the dark origins of magic, and the true meaning of sacrifice...
Experience a dark and deadly new world in the debut novel of the "Blood Skies" series from author Steven Montano.
Book 1, Blood Skies is currently FREE on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Blood Skies, Book 2
Something ancient has awoken. Primordial and wholly evil, a living shadow emerges from a prison made weak by the magical cataclysm called The Black. Now the Sleeper stalks the land in search of its old enemies, leaving a trail of madness and destruction in its wake. Eric Cross, a Southern Claw warlock, has been sent to find the Woman in the Ice, the only known means to stopping this evil. Aided by a grizzled ranger and a band of wardens and inmates from a sadistic prison, Cross' mission will bring him into conflict with an array of foes: the barbaric Gorgoloth, vampire shock troops out of the Ebon Cities, and a cadre of mercenary nihilists called the Black Circle. On a mission that will take him from a lost temple once ruled by insidious wolf sorcerers to the vicious gladiator games of the vampire city-state of Krul to the deadly ruins of an ice city, Cross will play a pivotal role in an ancient conflict whose outcome will determine the future of the world. Return to the world of Blood Skies in this exciting military fantasy adventure!
Helpful Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Blood Skies, Book 3
The war continues…
Eric Cross and his team of elite mercenaries are the bane of the Ebon Cities. Armed with the cutting-edge arcane weaponry of the Southern Claw, Cross and his crew – Black, Kane, Ronan, Maur, Grissom and Ash – have become a veritable thorn in the side of the vampire armies.
Now the team is tasked with halting vampire activity near the remote city-state of Fane, where the Ebon Cities have teamed up with a former Revenger in search of a deadly weapon called Soulrazor.
To make matters worse, something sinister has happened to Cross, and the key to his salvation is somehow directly tied to the Ebon Cities’ new soldiers: a host of necrotic angels who bear traces of divine power.
Cross and his team must travel across a blighted wilderness and do battle with a vile array of enemies as they race not only to save the city of Thornn from total annihilation, but to rescue Cross’ very soul from an enemy more powerful than he could ever imagine…
CROWN OF ASH
Blood Skies, Book 4
Eric Cross and his team have been to hell and back, but their journey isn’t over yet.
Marooned in the remote criminal city of Blacksand, the only way for the mercenaries to get home is to help a local crime boss protect his territories from the Ebon Cities.
To complicate matters, Danica Black is also being hunted by The Revengers, a powerful band of corrupt prison wardens, while Cross himself is trapped in the Whisperlands, a realm of darkness controlled by a cadre of evil mages known as the Shadow Lords.
The team will battle their way through corroding wastelands and deadly vampire outposts, but even their considerable skills might not be enough to save them from the cruel machinations of the Shadow Lord’s mysterious master, a malevolent creature who has manipulated their destinies right from the beginning…
Return to the world of The Black in Book 4 of the BLOOD SKIES saga!
Helpful Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
THE WITCH’S EYE
Blood Skies, Book 5
A new evil is born.
The Ebon Cities have created a deadly new breed of undead called the Witchborn, whose very existence spells doom for the entire continent.
To make matters worse, a nihilist cult called the Black Circle has learned of the Witch’s Eye, the source of the Witchborn virus and an item capable of opening a portal to The Black.
Eric Cross’s scattered and war-weary team must find the Eye before it’s too late. With the aid of some unlikely allies, the mercenaries will fight their way across the wastelands and challenge the horrors at the edge of oblivion.
And before the battle is won Cross and his team will make the ultimate sacrifice, and face one of their own…
Return to the world After The Black in Book 5 of the BLOOD SKIES saga!
Helpful Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
CHAIN OF SHADOWS
Blood Skies, Book 6
The barrier between worlds has been broken, and the invasion is about to begin.
Eric Cross, burdened by the loss of those who’ve died under his command, must lead his recently reunited mercenary team against the shadow wolf sorcerers known as the Maloj. Bound to dire artifact blades and charged with protecting the Kindred, Cross seeks help from the enigmatic White Mother, leader of the Southern Claw.
But sinister forces bring his vessel down in a strange and distant land, and soon Cross and his allies are beset by undead armies vying for control of the deadly region called the Chain of Shadows. Trapped in a desert waste where wielding magic is dangerous and nothing is as it seems, Cross’s team will pay the ultimate price in their battle to finally get home...
Return to the world After the Black in this pivotal 6th book of the BLOOD SKIES saga!
Helpful Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Blood Skies, Book 7
Coming June 27th!
Who ever knew the end would come so soon?
In this final volume of the BLOOD SKIES series, Eric Cross and Danica Black find themselves facing impossible odds in the desolate ruins of the world they once knew. Hunted by the mercenary forces of the newly formed East Claw Coalition and desperate to find the elusive White Mother, the two refugees will be pushed to the limits of their abilities and sanity as they struggle to survive.
Meanwhile, in the near future, the undead hunter called Reaver searches for the lost city of Bloodhollow, the place where humankind will make its final stand, while the undead of New Koth and the rebellious White Children make their push to end the reign of the Ebon Kingdoms once and for all.
As timelines collide and the spider weaves her web, the battle for the fate of the riven world will come to its violent conclusion in the depths of a forgotten city, where unlikely heroes will emerge and hidden evils will finally be revealed...
Helpful Links: Smashwords | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
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