Navigation Bar


Quote Generator

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Books I Read: January - February 2018

The Elven by Bernhard Hennen

It took me two months of dedicated reading to complete this. Of course, I took breaks along the way, but still, I feel stories can wear out their welcome. We're not in the era of television-less-ness anymore. We don't need War and Peace to keep us occupied. And this is a callback to those kinds of books. It's a saga rooted in high fantasy and Norse/Germanic myths (like elves and dwarves).

We've got three main characters. Two are elves who have been rivals for a girl elf's love for whatever thousands of years elves live. The last is a viking who gets treated like the comic relief throughout the book. Seriously, you think he's going to be a badass, but the elves treat him like Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies. Every place they go, the elves cluck their tongues at him for drinking, fighting, and being crude (although no more than any normal viking) and go "look at this boorish human, ha ha". They're like Legolas in every way--eagle vision, can do magic, nimble, skilled warrior, and so on. Very few female parts that don't involve a queen or someone more important's daughter, so don't look here for any diversity.

It is well-written, it's just so damn long. You forget who characters are, what places are. There's a map in the beginning but it only covers a small portion of the world. Maybe I'm a dummy, but if you're going to make a novel this big and sprawling, add a few cheat sheets in there.

And as a result, I don't think I can recommend this book. It's good enough for a normal size novel, but not for something this long. It took me eighteen hours--I could have read three or four other books in that time. I can't help but think I'd have been better off continuing The Expanse.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

I found a few books recommended for people who liked "Ready Player One". And I needed it after finishing some long fantasy sagas. I wanted something funny and contemporary. I'd read David Wong before and liked it so I thought this would hit the spot.

And it did. Wong's not good at titles (or is he too good?) but it's exactly what's on the tin--fast action and men-in-black doing gratuitous violence. It's a big that stew that combines cyberassasins, superheroes, horror movies, anime, future dystopia. Much of them reflect (but aren't directly coded as) eighties weirdness like "Rock and Rule" and MTV's bizarro years.

It's not a story that holds up to scrutiny. The plot moves so fast you don't have much chance to learn character backstories or reflect on anything. You're onto something new before you can digest the old. Characters turncoat from bad to good without explanation. Plot coupons come from nowhere. Chapters are short and action-packed. The character is dragged through events by the seat of her pants, rather than making decisions for herself. And none of the cast is likable. It's like a Jason Statham movie.

So this should only be used for amusement and entertainment. It won't give you anything profound. It won't be taught in high school. But it is a great book for a reader who likes Marvel movies and video games. It's a trip and a joke and an action movie.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

This is the story of a twelve-year-old girl coming to terms with the absence of her mom. It's told in two parallel narratives. One is in present-time, on a road trip with her grandparents. The other is the story she tells to her grandparents that involve her mom and what happened with her and her dad after she left.

The classic trifecta ensues: 1) they move somewhere she doesn't like 2) Dad starts seeing another woman 3) No one in school likes her. In the process, she befriends another girl, and HER mother leaves. This is the interesting part, as our main character gets a taste of what a pill she was, having to console someone in the same situation.

It's a good story, especially if you know what a broken home is like. And the style, full of odd quaint country expressions and quirky humor. It's not a cheesy Hallmark story. It reminds me of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie or "Holes" by Louis Sachar or "I Am the Cheese" by Robert Cormier. All of these have an unreliable narrator and implication of something sinister going on below the surface.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I was nervous about reading this at first. John Green highly recommended it, dedicated a whole vlog to it. But in the past, he'd recommended Kendra by Coe Booth, which I didn't like. And The Boy in the Black Suit was only so-so. So I thought this genre wasn't for me, because I couldn't be more white and it's a big leap to sympathize with... what are we calling them now? Underprivileged minorities? Then I saw it on a bunch of Year End Top Ten lists and thought I'd give it a try.

Days later, I was still thinking about it. Yes, it's an "issue" book, but it's more about the aftermath of what someone goes through. Other issue books miss the point entirely, skipping over roots & causes and capitalizing on a hot button to sell books (like 13 Reasons Why or This Is Where It Ends).

Our main character is split between two worlds. By day she goes to school in a white neighborhood full of preppies, thanks to a school voucher. By night, she's back in the ghetto, with her family of half-siblings and Dad who's done time and now runs a grocery store. She never lets either side know of her other life because she'd be called a traitor or ostracized for some other reason.

That all changes when she witnesses a cop shoot her friend and can't toe the line anymore. But it's more about what her neighborhood goes through, how they react, from gang leaders to barbers, and the whites & lawyers reactions. It's about what it means to be "ghetto" when that's your life, not just a thirty-minute sitcom. Even when you live among gangs and broken families, a young black teenage girl can still want daddy snuggles. No one is a one-note or ghetto caricature. It's modern life and helps a great deal with empathizing and sympathizing and, most of all, understanding the POV of "Black Lives Matter".

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

It's a solid C. The main character lacks a "Save the Cat" moment, so he's not very sympathetic. And women won't find anything for themselves here. The only female in the book is the person the main character is trying to ask out. She's a prize to be won. Also there's no plot, no bad guy, no goal (either inner or outer) besides "learn a thing". So it's a little like Disney's The Sword in the Stone in that way. But at least in that movie, Merlin was grooming Arthur to be king. Here, the wizards' objective is to live easy bachelor lives, geek wish fulfillment, and to conjure burritos whenever they want.

After that, you'd think I'd give it a low rating. But despite its flaws, I realized, halfway through, that I still wanted to know how it ended. This is what I wanted Wizard's Bane to be--a computer programmer in medieval times using programming to do magic.

This is a book for people who like comic strips, not characters. It's light-hearted, fun, and humorous. But keep in mind that means the plot is going to be held by shoestrings. So don't come in with expectations of Harry Potter.

Also, the cover is bupkiss. There's no video games here.

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

This was way better than I thought it would be. King's known for horror, not high fantasy. Before this point, the only other fantasy he wrote (if you don't count The Gunslinger, which goes beyond genres) was The Talisman. And after this point, he didn't go back to it for a long time. So I thought it would be a disaster. When an author writes outside their wheelhouse, you get wary. But it was also written in 1987, around the same time as It, Misery, and Skeleton Crew. And before he got sober.

The whole book has a fun storyteller vibe, like an old man in a tavern telling you the saga of King What's-his-face. And since it's a secondary world, you don't have to worry about those Stephen King cliches.

However, the weird thing is the story never seems to start. It keeps describing characters, giving anecdotes, showing the history of the kingdom, etc. but you're halfway through the book and the inciting incident hasn't occurred. The narration consistently feels like it's building towards something all throughout, which is disconcerting.

But overall, yes, I recommend it. It's a good book even for the non-Stephen King fan and I plan on reading the sequel.

John Dies at the End by David Wong

I remember reading this when it was free online, many many years ago. At the time, it felt like a life-changing work. So many books consist of dull introspective characters, plodding plots. This was a story for the MTV generation, with creative monsters, gross-out moments, and complete rejection of post-modern literary crap.

But it's a flawed narrative. Many scenes take up space and reflect what you'd see in a movie. They don't drive plot, reveal character, or restate theme. Also, all the events happen without being tied together, so it gets long and boring when the characters don't want anything except to survive.

It's like a Transformers movie: every scene is framed as MAXIMUM importance... which means nothing is important.Things happen, but you don't care. It's not a character-based story, it's event, then event, then event. There's no quiet scenes where we get a chance to absorb the impact. There's sort of a beginning but there's no middle or ending. The imagery provides information that isn't necessary, like reading a book while listening to a different one. It's all spectacle and no information.

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by various authors

This is an anthology of short stories that tells the story of Star Wars, but from the point-of-view of all the little characters that don't matter. Like the Jawa that finds R2-D2, the Tusken Raider that cold-cocks Luke, various droids and rebels, even the stormtrooper that bonks his head on the doorway. All the parts that didn't even earn scale.

It's actually one of the better short story collections I've read. Maybe because A) there's one unifying element tying them all together and leading to a conclusion and B) it's Star Wars. It was enjoyable, but not pull-you-in enjoyable. There is a LOT of time spent on Tatooine. I think there's a story for every character in Mos Eisley. If you like Star Wars, this is definitely worth looking into.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dwarf Novel Finished

I didn't mention this at the time because I didn't want to interrupt my promotion for "Dwarves Can't Climb Trees" (still available at the low price of $0.99). But on Wednesday, I finished my new novel. Final count: 96,796 words.

Its pre-production title is still "Dwarves of Katie Elder" but that's obviously not final. Realistically, it might be called something like "The Mudbow Sisters" or "Rimehollow". It's hard, because fantasy titles always sound so MAX IMPORTANCE, like "Return of the War for the Light Crystal" and "The Last Kingdom of the Final Sword". Either making it something simple sounding (it reminds me of "The Brothers Karamazov" or "The Fighting Sullivans") is going to make it fade in to all the dramatic-sounding titles OR it'll stand out because readers tend to get numb to those kinds of words after awhile.

In every draft, I keep a list of notes for the future. Things I thought of, but didn't want to stop forward progress on the draft for. I never know when to start working on these. Should I start them right after I finish so the story's fresh in my mind? Or do I wait until the next draft so I'm not clouded by everything else?

And what will I do while I let this incubate? Not sure yet. Might look into freelance work. But I also might try finishing some erotica. I think Amazon might be loosening restrictions. Plus I have kind of a plan for marketing them, so it makes more sense to pursue that, see where that goes.

Anyway... onward! To fortune and glory!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Last Day to Get Dwarves Can't Climb Trees Free

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Today's your last day to get Dwarves Can't Climb Trees on your kindle for Free. Free. Free. FREE!

Come on, man. All I want is for people to read my stuff. It's not a long thing, it's just a novella. 33,000 words or so. That's not much committment, is it? Come on, make a guy feel good.

If you don't, you'll make this puppy sad. You don't want a sad puppy, do you? What are you, a communist?

I'm sorry, I didn't mean that communist bit. I was being insensitive. But, please, just pick up a copy. It won't cost you anything.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Get My Free Book - Dwarves Can't Climb Trees

For St. Patrick's Day (the only other holiday involving short people is Christmas, and that's its whole other kettle of fish), I'm offering Dwarves Can't Climb Trees for free.

Here are some fun facts about dwarves from my book.
  • Dwarves are an egalitarian society of warriors, miners, and craftsmen.
  • There are six kingdoms/regions. One is in a cold, glacier region. Another is near an active fissure vent that the citizens have to tunnel around to prevent eruption
  • The one in this book takes place in Oakhaven, which is a tall mountain with a lot of snow. In summer, the snow melts and funnels into a river full of meltwater that's extremely cold. 
  • The three things dwarves value most are family, trust, and justice/vengeance.
  • Dwarves tend to lack imagination, but love boasting and telling tall tales around a fire or pub hearth.
  • Dwarf hair, for both genders, is usually worn long. Dwarven men spend considerable effort growing, maintaining, and embellishing their long beards (a trait they have in common with mermaids, ironically). Most decorations serve function over style, but they are never plain. Many represent small trophies of battle or objects associated with significant life events.
  • Stopping a forge fire is like stopping someone's heart. You can bring it back up again, but it's never the same. A new fire is like a child--impulsive, full of highs and lows, not tempered at all, goes one way or another without reason. But an old forge fire you can trust. It knows how to burn. It has experience. It's seen metal, knows its taste. A forge is the heart of a smithy, and a smithy's the heart of a dwarven town. 
  • "Dwarven women are like a good hammer. Always ready for work, and just as able to smash a head as hammer a sword." (common saying)
  • Dwarven foods commonly involve mushrooms, gourds, or other root vegetables. Bread is made from lichen flour. They commonly consume stews, meats, cheese, and of course, beer. Salt's a very popular seasoning.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

You Can Get a Sweet Novella for Free Right Now

Have you hugged your book today? Don't have one to hug? Try one of mine!

You have until St. Patrick's Day to pick up my free book. But act now, these deals won't last forever. After March 17th, the price goes back up to the unaffordable cost of $0.99. Only the 1% will be able to afford it, but you have this unique opportunity.

Here are some pictures that inspired the book:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dwarves Can't Climb Trees - FREE

In case you didn't see it yesterday, there's a Kindle promotion going on until St. Patrick's Day that Dwarves Can't Climb Trees is free. Buy and review!

Oh, need a summary? Here you go.
Vala has never been like the other dwarves. She's stubborn, outspoken, and a farmer--a necessary but lowborn occupation among the gem-harvesting miners. And in all likelihood, she'll end up married to some dull plowman or as a spinster outcast.

Every year, young dwarves congregate in a distant valley, mix & mingle, and find someone to marry. Some return with a fine wealthy companion, others with a dull plowman. But the only way Vala can stand out is a good first impression. That means arriving before anyone else does.

But leaving early means losing the help of her clan, risking icy rivers, beasts of prey, and bandits. She and her few friends decide the risk is worth it. But they may have less to fear from the unbeaten path than the harsh truths about each other.
Here's the link! The cover! The excitement! The merriment! The beer!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Free Book! - Dwarves Can't Climb Trees

Dwarves Can't Climb Trees is now on a five-day promotion until St. Patrick's Day (because leprechauns are as close as we get to having a holiday for dwarves).

That means you can get it for FREE. I mean, the book was only 99 cents before, but it being FREE means you don't even have to pay tax. Here are some other things that are free.

The love of a child
Clean teeth
The common cold
A library card
Most cardboard boxes
A stick
Pre-chewed gum
Bad poetry
Game of Thrones spoilers
True love's first kiss
A monkey
... and much, much more.

So you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Hey, at the least you can fill out your virtual bookshelf without taking up much space.