Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review of Steel Victory by J. L. Gribble

J. L. Gribble has created a captivating alternate reality in her debut novel, full of magic and vampires and were-creatures. The story centers around a centuries old female vampire named Victory and her adopted family, and the city-state she's cultivated as a safe zone between the British and Romans empires.

Victory has tried to step back in her control of the city politics, but as often happens, subversive elements creep in and try to undermine all she has accomplished. A new Roman Emperor also threatens to destroy the peace that has been established by treaty for decades.

But her family is not one to be trifled with. They all have military training and varying degrees of experience in the arts of war. A mercenary guild helps protect the city as well, with ties that go back to the birth of the city. But their little hamlet is no match for an entire legion from either the Brits or the Romans, so they must rely on savvy politics to keep their status as a free-state.

The characters are all singular, well-developed, and interesting. She uses strong female characters as the main points of view, while not a new thing, it does add flavor to the historical fantasy trope, especially Victory as a matriarch of the city-state and the anchor of the story.

Mrs. Gribble's prose is excellent, a very well-done novel from a first-time author. The story is tight and moves quickly. It drew me right in. I would definitely qualify this novel as a page-turner. She keeps cranking up the tension, and just when you think things couldn't get any worse, she takes up another notch.

The timeframe this story takes place in is hard to pin down. The alternate history of Romans and Greeks still playing a large part on the world scene would imply an older venue, but it's post-apocalyptic, taking place long after a nuclear war that has devastated much of the land. Certain types of technology have been rendered useless by Elven magic but there is a history of gun making that could be taken out of our current science. The history of this world intrigues me and I hope we find out more about it in the other books in this series. She currently has this planned as a trilogy with the next book set to release sometime in 2016.


If you like vampires or urban fantasy this should be in your wheelhouse. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Review of Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer

        Full disclosure, I've read all of the Twilight books, and The Host, and I enjoyed them all to varying degrees. I credit Stephenie Meyer with getting me to write. The thing I enjoy about her style of writing, say what you will, it is easy to read. I wanted to do something similar in my own writing. Everyone seems to have an opinion on her writing, and my friends reactions when I announced I was going to read this were all over the map.

        If you enjoyed Twilight you will likely enjoy Life and Death. Meyer flipped the genders of all the characters, except for the parents of the main character. The story is a re-imagining of the original book, and there are differences . . . some significant and some trivial, but I won't put any spoilers in this piece.

        The bad stuff.

        It is the basic plot scheme of the original, so the flaws with that story come along with this one. If you hated the premise, that hasn't really changed. I didn't though, so this is simply pointing out the obvious. She uses some filters in a few places that serve to distance the reader a little, but barely noticeable during the read through. Some of the plot ideas are weak, like the baseball game or the way that a kid with no apparent skill can endear himself to a small school so quickly. The main character, Beaufort, Beau for short, has no interest in sports or video games or anything other than cleaning the house and cooking. I've raised two boys, known lots of boys, hell I was a boy a long time ago, and I've never met anyone that remotely comes close to this character. He's also clumsier than the Keystone Cops, even more clumsy than Bella. Meyer explains that Beau has been taking care of his mom for most of his life, and I can understand that, and even the "old soul" idea, but she takes it a bit far. That's about it though. I actually like Beau and he's not whiny like Bella was.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Are Electronic Search Tools Ruining Our Memory?

These stories are all over the internet lately. They play right into the the premise of my story Quintessence.

Google and electronic devices are ruining our memory

NBC Story on Digital Amnesia

UK Daily Mail story

Newser 6 signs you're Suffering from Digital Amnesia

What happens when you become completely reliant on these digital aides when they are taken away? You'll have to read it to find out!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Dark Side of Public Discourse and the Internet

This is a very broad topic and some smart person could probably do a doctoral thesis on this subject. The internet is an amazing technological gift and I don't think anyone envisioned the sort of potential it had when in its fledgling state. The ability to connect people from all over the world in real-time has unlocked an unprecedented global community. 

It's facilitated the Arab Spring, which the jury is still out on whether that is going to turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. We've seen a young woman (Justine Sacco) vilified for making an off-color tweet in a poor attempt at humor that cost her job and ruined her reputation. We've seen young people commit suicide because of cyber-bullying. Harassment and death threats are rampant. And what is turning into a horrible custom--people jumping on the bandwagon of something they have very little knowledge of and creating a mob mentality. All of these things have happened and are happening, and it's sickening. Gamergate, Puppygate, leftwing vs. rightwing politics, I don't even want to get started on the details, but these things impinge on my daily visit to the web. News spreads at a viral pace now and people don't bother to take the time to see if things are true or not, they just take at gospel because everyone else says it's horrible. It must be bad if so many people say it is. It's as if a "journalist" from a gossip magazine is running the internet.

Why is it we want to believe the worst in everyone? The corporate world is not immune either (Examples of Social Media Crisis.)

And here is the worst part. If you speak out against something you are inviting the hordes to your doorstep. In some cases, literally. I'm hesitant to take a stand on any issue now. Who needs that kind of drama in their life? I know I don't, but I do think about stuff, and want to take a stand on things I feel strongly about without being singled out as the target du jour. Free speech should mean we all get to have a say, and be able to do it in a civil manner.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Journey to get an Agent

Used by Permission Hersson Piratoba
Are you or someone you know looking for an agent? Let me share with you what I've learned in the process. I'm aiming at fiction novelists. If you write short stories, or non-fiction or anything other than novel length fiction this isn't really for you.

There are a few things you will need to start the process--a manuscript, a query letter, a synopsis, and a list of agents.

First and foremost you need a finished manuscript. You can prep the other stuff, but before you send the first thing to a potential agent you need to have your MS completed, reviewed by alphas and betas, and edited as well as possible. It should be polished to a fine sheen, because this is the thing that will cement the deal. Even if you write a great query and a great synopsis, if your manuscript is subpar the agent is going to pass. Make all the arguments you want about story trumping writing or vice versa, but it will still come down to making that agent fall in love with your novel. Work hard on getting the first part of your story to really grab attention and showcase your voice, because it is the first thing the agent will read. Well, duh, but really, it needs to shine, because they always want the first pages--anywhere from ten to thirty or maybe the first three chapters. I'm just going to assume you did this part and move on. Don't make me regret it.