Yes, I must admit, I am fanatical about George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. How fanatical? I just spent $40 on maps and ordered The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire). Now I have to quit eating out for at least a week.
Totally worth it.
For the last two years I have developed the habit of Googling Westeros maps as I work my way through Mr. Martin's books again and again, and I am telling you the world is hard to make sense of on a smart phone screen. I haven't yet obtained my collection of hardback copies. I have all of the Game of Thrones books in audio and ebook formats. Starting next month, I plan to buy a hardback Song of Ice and Fire book a month. Had I done this earlier, I would not have as much confusion with the maps as I sometimes do while driving and listening to the story.
Anyway, I am anxiously awaiting my copy of The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire). I pre-ordered.
I also just learned that J. R. R. Tolkein was a devout Catholic. How did I not know that?
Have you ever heard of the Amazon Top Reviewers? I have, because I’m an author who would desperately love to get their attention, especially if they decide the like my books. A lot of marketing gurus will make a fuss about finding the right reviewer and then sending a polite email asking if they would like to review your book. This is definitely a good practice, or so it seems. Many authors have had good luck. The Amazon Top Reviewers are serious about what they do. They want readers to mark their reviews as useful, which would suggest they would only give honest reviews.
I am taking a short break to daydream about all of the top one hundred finding my book and giving Dragon Badge, Dragon Attack, Enemy of Man, Son of Orlan, and Die Like A Man five star reviews.
Ah, that was a nice fantasy.
Perhaps I would have more luck if I sought reviews (as every book marketing expert suggests). Unfortunately, there is only so much time in a day and I enjoy making up stories more than marketing best practices.
Which brings us to the reason we are here today, good reader. I recently left a review for Kinslayer: Book Two of the Lotus War series by Jay Kristoff. Book reviews for traditional and indie authors is something I do whenever I can. Just now, I saw that forty-five people have found my recommendations helpful. Cool beans! My Amazon Reviewer Rank is...not “Top” to say the least. Currently, I’m sitting at 95,717.
There are a lot of people doing a lot of reviews! That’s great. To reviewers everywhere, good work! Keep it up! Writers love you.
Kinslayer: Book Two of the Lotus War series took Japanese Steampunk farther than the first book (Stormdancer). There were more characters and plot lines. I liked the first book better, but only a little bit. As second books go, this one is worth a read. The visual, auditory, and even olfactory detail of the lands of Shima really is impressive. Every character has something at stake--lives to be lost, honors to regain, sacrifices to make. Kinslayer fits the type of things I read, in that there is danger and death, and the violence involved is not watered down with cliches or falseness.
Mortal combat is not pretty. Kristoff makes that very clear. I’m good with that. Lately, I’ve become fatigued with war and violence in fiction. By the end of the book, I was ready for a break. Having said that, I recommend reading it, or listen to it as I did. (I really love audiobooks.) Jennifer Ikeda does a fabulous job narrating Kinslayer (as she did Stormdancer). As someone who has listened to hundreds of audiobooks, I feel like I’m qualified to make a recommendation. Kinslayer is worth the time. I plan to listen to Stormdancer, Kinslayer, and Endsinger when the third book comes out.
I would have liked to see more of Budo and Yukiko, and the Gaijin. When they came on the scene in this book, I started to see new landscapes opening up. And there were some interesting settings and characters. I hope for more of the world beyond Shima in the next book.
What do you think of Japanese steampunk? I’m dying to know.
Illyrio reminds me so much of Varys that I had to check and see if they were ever in the same place in the story. Both men are morbidly obese, cunning, and far more agile than they appear. Do you remember Butter Bumps, the court fool who danced, sang, and did handstands despite sporting a build reminiscent of Varys, or Illyrio for that matter. We all know that Varys is a master of disguise. It might be good to remember that he was a master thief in his youth, a skilled cat burglar as it were.
In a Dance with Dragons, Tyrion spends quite a bit of time with Magister Illyrio, and he also knows Varys. So my curiosity must be misplaced, but for a time, I wondered if Varys had time to bounce back and forth between Westeros and Pentos, assuming multiple identities and scheming to topple kingdoms.
But alas, it seems that is impossible. But still, I always think of Varys during scenes with Illyrio, and vice versa.
Welcome to the latest stop on the It Takes All Kinds of Characters blog tour.
In the previous episode, as it were, military science fiction author Britt Ringel reveals the creation of his primary protagonist, Garrett Heskan. As an avid reader of the series, starting with This Corner of the Universe, I can attest that Heskan is a classic character worth cheering for. Not without flaws, Heskan leads his crew through situations and space battles that keep me on the edge of my seat. I particularly enjoy his awareness of his shortcomings and his determination to strive onward no matter the personal cost.
Garrett Heskan is a true professional of the Brevic Navy.
Author Britt Ringel was kind enough to invite me on this tour, so I'd like to share some thoughts on my most popular character, Kin Roland. (For this post, I have omitted the questions and gone straight to the answers.)
The character of Kin Roland evolved from the organic, seat-of-the-pants writing style I followed at the time. I actually wrote Enemy of Man in about six weeks as a screenplay, then later novelized it with major expansions and revisions. Starting his story life as a tough former soldier trapped on a hostile planet with survivors of various shipwrecks, he was pitted against an alien hunter that blamed him for destroying his home world. So Kin's character developed in the crucible of conflict. He had to survive a deadly world plagued with extraterrestrial storms and protect a local village from a creature that made Aliens and the Predator look simple.
With each supporting character, Kin's motivations and conflicts grew. So far, readers have enjoyed the first two books, Enemy of Man and Son of Orlan.
The story takes place at shipwreck with a wormhole anomaly looming in the upper atmosphere. Kin has been hiding on the planet, working as the security officer, for about nine years. Why is he hiding? Well, there was this issue with him failing to destroy the home world of the Reapers. He's a tough veteran, but balked at genocide, deciding the Reaper's couldn't leave their planet in the state of ruin it was left in. Maybe it wasn't the best decision, but it is his cross to bear.
There are a few important things a reader considering this series might be interested in, namely that Kin Roland went from hero to outlaw with one decision. He's competent, brave, and completely loyal to those he has given his protection. He fights for what is right, despite his many flaws.
The obvious conflict in the first two books, is survival against long odds. However, Kin is also put in another difficult moral decision. There is an alien princess that maintains a zone of protection around Crater Town. He needs to bring her back, but doing so will put her in danger from Droon, Earth Fleet, and her peoples ancient enemies. Once he learns more about her past, he has to wonder if this young woman deserves his life or if she has a hidden agenda that will endanger everyone he holds dear. Of course, she might be saving the entire human race.
Enemy of Man and Son of Orlan are available in ebook and paperback book format through Amazon and CreateSpace. The third book, King of Hellsbreach, is shaping up to me my most exciting release yet. I can't wait to share it. It should be complete this fall, and released in early 2015.
Thanks for stopping by. Please check out the blog stops by Britt Ringel, Mark Bordner and other authors.
Last week I purchased several UFC fights from the local video store, because they were on clearance and I can't bring myself to invest in pay-per-view. I wish I could, because I really want to see UFC 178 on September 27. There's going to be some interesting contests.
Meanwhile, I DVDs of the events months and years after they occur. Combined with occasional visits to the UFC website, I am slowly reacquainting myself with the world of MMA. It is the only sport I watch. I used to look for rowing, but good luck finding live coverage.
The fight between Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones in UFC 165 help reignite my interest in the sport. Gustafsson came into the match as a serious underdog. It was his title shot, and Jones' chance to make history by defending his title for the fifth time, a new record.
Gustafsson put on an amazing show, taking down Jones for the first time and controlling the match (I thought). As far as I can tell, Jones was awarded the decision based on the number of leg strikes. One thing was evident, it was one of the best fights in history.
Another DVD I picked up for $5 was Ronda Rousey: Breaking Ground. She is an Olympic Judo champion that has opened up the UFC for women fighters. She is one of the top fighters requested by sponsors, and the Ultimate Fighter 16 is dedicated to women competing for the straweight title. I was able to catch part of the first episode and it looks like there is quite a bit of talent.
Rousey fights in a different weight class, and seems unbeatable. She is the master of the Judo takedown and arm bar.
Watching such inspirational fighters always makes me want to train (and secretly dream of cage fighting, though I'm too old to do it for more than something to check off my bucket list). This means I spend time watching fights, instructional DVDs, training at my local BJJ gym, and generally working out and daydreaming of greatness.
I'm not extremely competitive. I like to spar and have been to a few tournaments with mediocre results. If I have any natural talent, it is for writing. But there's no law against dreaming, and if it helps me get in shape and gives me the tools to defend myself and others, then it must be a good thing. This is all part of balancing life with writing. In the long run, I hope it will make me a better writer and a better person.
The question is, can an independent writer compete without dedicating every waking moment to the craft of fiction and the job of marketing?
As an independent writer, I understand the importance of hiring a professional editor. Thus far, I have used two that greatly improved my work--caught mistakes, made me think, saved me a lot of embarrassment.
Finding an editor can be a daunting task. I've ran into a few that seemed almost hostile to authors, waging a fear campaign that suggests there are secret agencies hunting any writer who claims to have a reasonable grasp of the English language and story telling. So when I am shopping for a professional editor, I seek a skilled professional with respect for writers and readers. In short, I will be spending a lot of correspondence time with my editor, and I'd like the experience to be pleasant. Both editors that I've used, Samantha LaFantasie and BZ Hercules (Beth) are easy to work with and have the ability to correct my mistakes and encourage my development at the same time.
Editors I recommend:
Samantha LaFantasie edited Enemy of Man and Son of Orlan. BZ Hercules (Beth) edited my newest Urban Fantasy / Horror novel Die Like a Man. Both editors did excellent work for a great price.
How I chose BZ Hercules for this project:
I wrote Die Like a Man several years ago and kept coming back to it. The plot and the narrative style are intense, the hero flawed, and the stakes as high as they can be in Urban Fantasy. The protagonist has the power to do good or evil, and may be losing his ability to tell the difference.
Since this was a new book, parallel to but separate from my previous urban fantasy / crime thrillers, I decided to hire an additional editor while my first editor worked on my science fiction series. I'd seen BZ Hercules on Twitter, and did some research.
After browsing her web page intently, I selected the Triangulation Service from BZ Hercules for Die Like a Man. This gave me editing, proofreading, and beta reading all in one package for a great price. Beth was prompt in all correspondence and delivered everything she promised and more.
One thing I really liked:
She provided two copies of the edits, a raw version and a cleaner, easier to read version with much of the Track Changes finalized. This must have taken her a lot of extra work, but I liked it because it made my review and revision much faster. All I had to do was read the manuscript, change what I wanted, and refer to the original raw edit when I had questions. I emailed her several times, and she answered right away.
Where I found peace of mind:
With each new editor or proofreader, a writer encounters different opinions and advice. A quick check of the Chicago Manual of Style, and online grammar sites, revealed that BZ Hercules knew her business. The corrections BZ Hercules made were grammatically correct and insightful. I came to embrace them, just as I had learned from other editors and proofreaders.
I enjoyed working with BZ Hercules so much:
...that I immediately started writing with renewed enthusiasm, confident I had found a true professional I could trust with the labors of my imagination.
Thanks for reading my blog. Have a great day, and may everything you read be wondrous.
No Way to Start a War, the second book in the TCOTU series (This Corner of the Universe) by Britt Ringel is a well thought out military space opera with excellent characters. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but Now Way to Start a War is better.
First of all, the conflict between the Hollaran Commonwealth and the Brevic Republic is heating up. Lt. Heskan and his crew face dangerous enemies as they become part of a new mission and learn to handle a larger ship. New and old battle tactics become important, and Heskan has decisions to make.
No Way to Start a War benefits from tighter control of point of view characters, a high-stakes plots, and some serious moral dilemmas faced by various characters. But one of the biggest home runs in the book is the antagonist. I won’t put any spoilers in this review, but Ringel did an excellent job with one of the primary antagonist, an area of storytelling were many authors, even the greats, often fall short.
My “job” as a book reviewer is to help readers, to tell it all, to shuck it down to the cob as we say in these here parts. I am confidently giving No Way to Start a War a five (5) star review, so keep that in mind when I share my less favorite parts.
Science fiction fans love detail. I marvel at how much technical and operational detail authors like Britt Ringel can put into a book. Sometimes, for me, it is too much and slows things down. Take it for what it’s worth; the detail in this book is very thorough. On one hand, I learn a lot about how a space faring naval force might operate. I believe Ringel's bio says he was an officer in the Air Force. He seems qualified to speculate on how would operate in the future. So if you are the type of science fiction fan that thrives on this kind of thing, the TCOTU series is definitely for you. If you have a shorter attention space and suffer from slow-reading-syndrome (I daydream as I read fiction--entering the story world as it were), then the TCOTU is still very excellent.
I’ve said it before, Britt Ringel’s books remind me of Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey in space. There really isn’t higher praise than that.
Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot of posts about novel writing. Most of these have focused on editing or story structure. For years I used organic / seat-of-the-pants drafting methods with heavy revision and editing, but why talk about that. It’s self explanatory. So to improve my craft, I’ve studied structure and posted what I’ve learned. I write in several genres, but prefer science fiction, fantasy, and a mixture of urban fantasy and horror with a dash of crime fiction thrown it. These are the types of things I like to read. Historical fiction is a also particular favorite of mine, though I have not tried to write anything in that genre yet.
Science fiction contains several subfields of specialization such as space opera, military, adventure, and even fantasy or horror. I never worried exactly which type of scifi my stories fell into, as I was busy dreaming the adventure to life. There are usually aspects of each subfield in my novels. I am, however, aware that readers of science fiction have standards and preferences. For science fiction to truly be science fiction, it must at least start from what is known about the universe. The speculative technology is imagined or extrapolated from that basis.
Recently I began a project to sharpen my skills in this area. I did a Google search for "science fiction for science fiction writers" and was directed to several books on Amazon. I selected numerous titles and put them on my wish list, then started planning when they would fit into the budget. Fortunately for me, I already have of a couple of books on the topic which I read years ago. For the purpose of educating myself in hopes of being a better science fiction writer, I have begun a fresh read of Space Travel: A writer's guide to the science of interplanetary and interstellar travel.
Space Travel is edited by Ben Bova with Anthony R Lewis. As I write this blog and look at the book, I am at a loss for exactly who is the author…such is the way of nonfiction I suppose. Space Travel was copyrighted in 1997 by Ben Bova. Content was edited by David Tompkins and David H. Borcherding, production edit by Jennifer Lepore, design by Angela Lennert Wilcox, and the cover illustration credits go to Bob Eggleton.
If I remember correctly from the first time I read this book, it is a good overview of issues that come up when writing a science fiction novel. Part of my mission to improve my science and thus improve my science fiction, will involve more than just reading books, but this is a good place to start. And I thought I would start with somebody with a great deal of credibility. So let me mention a little bit about Ben Bova.
This is a quote from the about the editor section of Space Travel: A writer's guide to the science of interplanetary and interstellar travel:
About the editor
Ben Bova is author of Mars, Moonrise, and more than ninety other novels, nonfiction and instructional books, including The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells for writer's Digest books. The former editor of Analog Science Fiction and Omni magazines, Bova is the six-time winner of science fiction's Hugo award for best professional editor. He is president emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
This blog post is a book review. It is about becoming a better writer. I've just started reading Space Travel and am learning about rockets and some basics of physics. Other topics that are listed in the table of contents include orbit, living and working in space, space industries, space habitats, the moon, advanced spacecraft, the solar system, the stars, starships, the universe, legal aspects, and military uses of space.
I hope you'll join me in this blog in the future and open a discussion about writing in general and also the genre of science fiction. I'm not someone who has formalized training in science and I don’t work in an industry of the scientific nature, so I need all the help I can get.
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
Last year I discovered the works of science fiction author John G. Hemry (whose pen name is Jack Campbell) and listened to the Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier series. It was an honest mistake, and I planned to return to the first series once I finished the second.
Dauntless is an entertaining book for several reasons. The protagonist, Black Jack Geary, is thoroughly honorable and dedicated to his duty. He's a strong hero who wins. The supporting cast either idolizes him as a legend reborn or despises him as a relic of a previous era. In Dauntless, Geary is faced with long odds and must retrain the fleet in forgotten traditions and disciplines.
The book is packed with dialogue and internal dialogue. The setting consists largely of "light minutes and hours" from the enemy or destinations. There is plenty of information dump and explanations of how space battles are fought. The theme of the book seems to be how Black Jack Geary is a reluctant hero, an exceptionally moral and honorable hero, and is destined to be the greatest military champion ever.
This description might turn potential readers off, as it encompasses several techniques writers are taught to avoid, however, I must say I really enjoyed Dauntless and plan to listen to the rest of the series in audiobook format.
A little over a year ago I realized that one of my friends on twitter was someone I actually knew in the real world. We talked a lot about writing through Twitter and occasionally meet to through around ideas about books, publishing, and stories. Josh was gracious enough to take on some beta reading work for Enemy of Man and I found his observations not only energetic, but helpful to the revision process.
Good beta readers are hard to find.
Josh has also made great strides with his web site and building his social media presence, so although I have a head start in the realm of Indie publishing, I learning from him every time we talk. One thing you'll learn about Josh Hayes is that he has an impressive writing routine and some great tools. Without further delay, let's get to the interview.
Scott: What was the first story you wrote?
Josh: The first story I wrote was a military science fiction tale called “The Final Frontier”. I was about a genetic weapons experiment which went horribly wrong and proceeds to kill everyone and everything. Think Star Trek meets Aliens. I wrote it long hand in a red one-subject notebook, and it’s still tucked safely away in my box of Stuff-That-No-one-Will-Ever-See-Ever.
Scott: That notebook looks familiar, I'm pretty sure I've got a couple from the good-ole-days. Next question, how long have you considered yourself a writer (and what convinced you that you were a writer)?
Josh: You know that’s a good question. I’ve been writing stories in one form or another since I was 14 years old. I’ve read a lot recently about the difference between “writers” and “authors” and have concluded that no matter what, if you take the time to sit down and create something, you are a writer.
I consider myself an Indie Writer. I haven’t been able to give myself the title “author” yet, but only because I don’t feel like I’ve earned that. I think that if I ever become successful (and by that I mean if I ever make $100 on my writing and someone besides my closest friends read my work, then I’ll wear the “author badge” around like a first place ribbon.
Scott: This is one of those questions every writer dreads, but I have to ask; How do you find ideas for stories?
Josh: They just come to me, most of the time out of nowhere and usually when I’m not ready for them. I’ve had several light bulb moments when I’m in the middle of doing things that have nothing at all to do with writing. Thank God for smartphones.
Scott: Tell us about your writing routine (so we can all steal it and become massively productive).
Josh: My routine, until recently, had been extremely sporadic. I would write for a few days or weeks then wouldn’t touch a keyboard for weeks or months on end. This year I decided that this was something that I really wanted to do and it was time to get serious about writing.
I work over nights, so usually I wake up around 10 or 11am, make a pot of coffee, scroll through some blogs and waste way too much time on Facebook, then after about my second cup I start pounding away at the keys. I keep track of my daily, weekly, and monthly word counts and set my daily minimum at 500 words. A couple of weeks ago I learned about the #1K1H Challenge on Twitter, which is basically just a game to write 1,000 words in 1 hour, and that has done wonders for my writing. I set a timer, turn everything else off (except my music) and type. It sounded daunting at first, but I’ve never not made the 1,000 work mark.
Scott: Sounds like some writing sprints I've tried on Twitter. Lots of fun, but I found myself drifting away from the rules of the contest, but that's another story.
What is your favorite piece(s) of writing software?
Josh: I use Scrivener for writing and its sister program Scapple for outlining, planning and plotting. I’m a very non-linear writer and until recently was also a Panster. (That’s seat of the pants writer.) Scrivener allows you to write can keep track of multiple documents and scenes and chapters all in one program. The compile system has a steep learning curve, but once you figure it out, there is no better program for writing.
Scapple is just a huge blank document that you can brainstorm on: think of a black piece of paper and you’re just writing notes, circling them and drawing lines to other notes. I spent two days this week planning out a new science fiction series and after plotting out the first three books had well over 500 notes for the project. It’s extremely simple to you and very powerful. You can also drag those notes right into Scrivener and create your scenes straight from them.
Scott: Can you tell us about your current project?
Josh: Right now I’m working on two completely different projects. One is a main stream crime/detective novel, which I’ve put on the back burner for my new science fiction series. I plan for this series to have five parts, which I’m planning to release as they are completed, and each part will be around 20k to 25k words.
The project’s working title is “Second Star” and it’s a science fiction re-imagining of a classic children’s tale. It’s been something that I’ve been playing around with in my head for almost a year now, and recently got the thumbs up from the company that owns the original material to go ahead with the project. I’m really excited about it.
Scott: Cool. That type of thing seems to be catching on. Sounds like a blockbuster in the making.
Next question, what is your favorite movie?
Josh: Oh, man, this is tough. I’d have to say it’s a tie between Inception, The Dark Knight and War Games. “Would you like to play a game?”
Scott: (Laughing) What is your favorite book?
Josh: Easy. The Gunslinger. It gets better every time I read it. The second time I read it I literally got goose bumps.
Scott: The Gunslinger is awesome. One of the first, if not the first, audio books I ever listened too.
Josh: I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan.
Scott: What is your favorite song or album?
Josh: Anything by Breaking Benjamin.
Scott: Do you listen to music when you write?
Josh: I listen to dramatic movie scores, usually ones from science fiction movies. If I’m ever looking at a blank screen with nothing to write, I blare the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy and go about derezzing anyone on a Lightcycle.
Scott: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Josh: Hopefully doing exactly what I’m doing now, writing. With the possible exception of not having a full time job. I would love to make enough money to become a full time writer, but even if I only every make enough to pay my phone bill that’s okay with me.
Scott: If you could have one author give a blurb for your book, who would it be and why?
Josh: On man, of course I’m going to say King, but let’s be slightly realistic here: really any author who thought my words rated a blurb, I would be honored to accept their blurb.
Scott: Do you have any unique ways of sharing your work with readers?
Josh: Right now, only have one short story available, which can be found on Amazon for $0.99 or for free on Noise Trade. I’ve also been invited to become one of the first writers to have work sold and promoted by a brand new company OpenBooks.com. The company should be up and running late this year and I’m very excited to work with them. Once I get the go ahead, I will be posting additional details on my website, but their business plan is groundbreaking.
Scott: I'm intrigued. Thanks for the interview. I look forward to more book talks. To wrap things up, I am putting a link to The Watch on Noise Trade here, and I also linked the picture to Amazon.
Today, I am very excited to be able to help author Steven Montano reveal the cover for his final installment in the Blood Skies series, Vampire Down!!
Releases June 27, 2014
Who ever knew the end would come so soon?
About the Author~
Steven Montano was something terrifying in his previous life. Now heâs an accountant, so not much has changed.
An avid hiker, reader, San Antonio Spurs fan, goofball husband and father of two, Steven writes novels (the seven volume Blood Skies series, the Skullborn Trilogy, something blackâ¦, and the upcoming thrillers Blood Angel Rising and Colder) and drinks a lot of wine when he isnât busy pulling his hair out over payroll or trying to balance the company books.
Thanks for stopping by, make sure you check out this series. Book 1, Blood Skies is currently FREE on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Start your journey now.
Every author knows cover reveals are exciting. This is the fourth book design I've purchased through Pro Book Covers. They just keep getting better.
I remember how excited I was to see Dragon Badge. The first time is always special. When I saw Enemy of Man, it took my breath away because it fit the story perfectly. Sometimes in life, you actually get more than you hope for!
Now I am looking at Son of Orlan with fresh inspiration. Soon my editor will return her comments. Facing the final revision strikes terror in the boldest author, but I can't wait.
The release date has been set for August 1st, but I should be done before then. (It's always good to pad the schedule a little when it comes to polishing 85,000 words.)
I hope you like this cover as much as I do and will consider reading the Chronicles of Kin Roland series.
The second book in the Chronicles of Kin Roland series has been a long time coming. The first draft flowed through the keyboard like a gift from the imagination. However, I've dedicated myself to writing the best I possibly can. The Son of Orlan has been edited and revised more than anything I've published. The release date has yet to be set. I'm waiting on a final round of editor's comments and beta reader feedback before finalizing the manuscript. (Samantha LaFantasie edited Enemy of Man, and has graciously agreed to do the same for book two.)
The new cover by probookcovers.com looks great and I can't wait to share it. This Friday, the intensely visual artwork will be on display for Enemy of Man fans to drool over.
SON OF ORLAN
Kin Roland survived the Battle of Crater Town. He managed to keep his friends alive, though most remained at his side on Crashdown when the safe course would have been to evacuate with Earth Fleet. Kin even found the girl of his dreams.
Surviving Earth Fleet justice and a Reaper vendetta was only the beginning. Now Kin has real trouble.
With the Grand Army of the Mazz Empire descending on the planet to destroy ancient enemies and Reapers sweeping across the landscape leaving terror and death in their wake, Kin learns the truth of his supposedly invincible enemies. The largest military expedition in history isn't that of of a conquering force. The Mazz are on the run--fleeing extinction and Kin knows desperate enemies are dangerous.
Kin will find himself in a position no one expected. He'll define humanity with his next choice, or doom them eternally.
If you are new to the series, please check out book one: Enemy of Man
A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War revealed aspects of the historical period I hadn't been exposed to in other books. The author, Amanda Foreman, describes key events I have read in other books on the Civil War, but also shows the surprising effect on England and other parts of the world.
I vaguely remember some of the stranger attempts at holding the Union together, but this book made my eyes pop open. Secretary of State William Henry Seward attempted a novel tactic at the beginning of the war, namely, he raised the specter of a potential foreign war in the belief the Confederate States would rejoin the Union out of a sense of nationalism. The potential disaster of this course of action can barely be imagined.
A World on Fire also recounts the tale of the CSS Alabama and how much of the world seemed fascinated by the ship and crew's exploits. The book explained how many people in England supported the Confederacy despite their hatred of slavery.
I had also never read about Confederate operations from Canada, nor seen a detailed account of the conscription of English citizens on both sides of the war.
A World on Fire follows the lives of colorful characters, some noble, some not so much.
The audiobook version is narrated by Dean Robertson, who does a good job and is easy to listen to.
This is definitely a book to read. Civil War history has always interested me, and I plan to re-read previous books and search for new discussions of the topic.
I've met some great people since my entrance into the world of social media; readers, novelists, and bloggers from all walks of life. One of the excellent sites I follow is Consuming Worlds. Several of her blog posts have mentioned an author named Steven Montano. She refers to him as one of her favorite authors, and I keep adding his books to my wish list. Like most readers with two jobs and a single income family of six, my to-be-read pile is long and new entries are serious business.
Today I pulled the trigger and picked up a Kindle copy of Blood Skies, which to my delight, was free. I have no idea if this is a perma-free book to introduce the series or if I just got lucky. I have no affiliation with Mr. Montano other than Danielle's persistent recommendations of his writing. Please check back for my review and be patient. I'm a slow reader. When I spend time in the pages, I daydream my way through the story. That's why I have a high standard for what I read. If you follow my blog (or followed my previous blog Scott Moon Blog) then you know I listen to a lot of audio books, because I need stories and driving is a big part of my life.
Anyhow, I will be participating in the cover reveal of Vampire Down: Book 7 in the Blood Skies series. My review of the first book should be done by the beginning of July. With luck, I might score a guest post from Steven Montano during his blog tour.
If you would like to participate in the cover reveal for Vampire Down, please visit Danielle's site here.
Thanks for stopping by.
Perhaps there are writers craving competition with the intensity of a mixed martial arts superstar. And maybe pigs will fly to the moon and eat cheese. The sad reality is that more books are published now than any time in history, but there is good news. Tools exist to help authors stand out from the crowd.
Nothing exists to replaced imagination or a skilled editor. The editing tools I am about to describe require time, effort, and don't replaced professional eyes and the red pen that follows. Serenity Software: Editor and Pro Writing Aid can help deliver a superior product to a paid editor that should spend less time on the manuscript and thus reduce the overall fee.
With luck, a writer can pull ahead of the crowd by concentrating on craft and evocative storytelling. Marketing can sell anything, but readers won't purchase a second mediocre book.
First impressions count.
Why I like Pro Writing Aid
This tool works online. It highlights targeted writing issues and offers suggestions. The writing style check will show adverbs in bright colors making it easy to spot problem areas in a manuscript.
The cliches and redundancies check is nice. There is a passive word index and repeated word program just to name a few features.
Pro Writing Aid also has an affiliate marketing program, which I have elected not to pursue. Some authors advocate affiliate marketing as a way to bolster total income, but my brief experiment with it seemed a waste of time that could have been spent writing.
I discovered a neat trick that allows me to review documents on my smart phone.
Simply run Pro Writing Aid on a PC in Google Docs, then pull the file up on a smartphone when you can't be at your computer. The highlighted words will remain visible for consideration.
For my current work-in-progress, the Son of Orlan (book two in the Chronicles of Kin Roland) I've used both Serenity and Pro Writing Aid. Soon it will be ready for the eyes of Samantha LaFantasie, the editor of Enemy of Man.
In future blogs I will discuss these tools in greater detail. Please share your experiences with these and other productivity tools in the comments section. I know I can use all the help I can get.
Let's write great stories and represent the growing ranks of professional indie authors.
(re-posted from Goodreads)
Blue Hearts of Mars is the first book I have signed to read in the Shut Up and Read Group. This is the first YA Science Fiction novel I have read and I am enjoying it so far, which should not be surprising, since it has made it to the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest.
I am a slow reader, or more accurately, a distracted reader. (I currently have three fiction books going and one book on writing. And I am, of course, working on my latest WIP, working, and raising a famly. Not in that order.)
The deadline for this book, by the Shut Up and Read group rules, is May 2. So I guess I better stop blogging and start reading.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
- The Craft of Writing: 7 Magnificent Books
- Use of Force Myths
- A Really Useful Tool
- Project Rotation