Sunday, January 20, 2019

Strong female characters

I'm particularly drawn to these types of characters. Mercy Thompson is probably one of my favorite protagonists in anything I've ever read. She's not carrying around a dominating power or ability that makes her inherently powerful. She is a woman with some abilities that often takes on significantly stronger enemies because it's the Right Thing to Do. Her motivations when she faces off against monsters, people or other antagonists are the no one else is willing to step up so it's on her to take on the antagonists. Her bravery is inspiring.

Yes, she is a fictional character--Patricia Briggs wrote her into existence. But that doesn't make the qualities that make her a hero any less real. There are plenty of examples in our history of women stepping up and taking great risks in order to do the right thing.

I also admire other minority characters that are strong and capable. Whether those minorities are racial, cultural, religious or sexual and gender identification--I find myself wanting to explore the dynamics of them and their relationship to the world around them.

As a result of my admiration for these types of characters, I find myself particularly interested in featuring them in my own stories--whether as a supporting character or the main protagonist of the story. Of course, this leads to what I see as my greatest challenge as a writer. Portraying female characters accurately. I'm not female (shocking, I know) so I don't have any practical experience. I only know what I observe or have been told by women I know, or women in history/popular media.

My new book features not only a female main character but two of the most important supporting characters are also female. The entire book is about Kate Stimson actually rescuing the most powerful person in the universe I've created. I found myself examining her motivations and her bravery. I fell in love with her a little bit. Hell, there were times I wanted to be her.

My next book after that features a lesbian protagonist, with her growing relationship with the main supporting character playing an important part in the progression of the story. Talk about stretching. Not only am I not a woman, I'm also not a lesbian. I have no clue how good a job I'm doing with that. I suppose at some point I'll have to find a lesbian reader to give me some feedback.

So I need to find a lesbian reader who is interested in science fiction and/or urban fantasy, I guess. I need to be idiot checked (featuring me as the possibly idiot, and the reader as the one doing the checking.)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sneak peak!

So my next book, Splitter, is coming along nicely. It's in the final set of edits before I then go to work on formatting, creating the final cover and publishing.

Splitter, the third book set in the Dreamside universe, is about a boy who lives on the Dreamside and the Wakeside simultaneously. It's a confusing, maddening existence and he is slowly losing his mind. He meets up with Colin and Kate (who is now Colin's girlfriend) and the resulting conflict introduces Kate to the Dreamside and she becomes a reluctant heroine.

I love to write about strong women, and Kate represents my first attempt at having the central character be female. Most of my favorite books spotlight strong female characters, ranging from Mercy Thompson to Honor Harrington, with many others in between. I must admit that Anita Blake is a guilty pleasure of mine, though I kinda lost interest after book 6 in that series.

I've got to admit that I'm a tad nervous about this. I hope I manage to capture a feminine character with a believable voice. We'll see.

I'm getting really excited so I thought I'd put some cover previews up. I haven't made my final decision on which of these two I'm going to use, but I will admit I'm leaning toward the first.

Putting Splitter aside for a moment, I also want to announce that the rough draft of my following book, Black Swan Effect, is completed and "percolating" on my virtual desk currently. The ending is mega sloppy still, though the skeleton of it is solid.

This is my first book that is not set in the Dreamside Universe. It's the first book in what I hope will be a three book science fiction series, though I am being quite careful to have each book stand alone. The last thing I want is to leave people hanging.

I have been toying with covers for that one as well. I've found that playing around with covers and other images for my writing is energizing. So without further ado, he's a possible cover for that book.

I'm pretty happy with this one already, though I'm still toying with other ideas. The book is still way down my publishing pipeline, so I would be surprised if this is actually the final cover.

Finally, I recently started my "next, next, next" book that will follow Black Swan Theory. It is going to be the fourth novel set on the Dreamside, and will star the cast of The Scary Girls, centering on Hazel. In fact, at this moment, the working title is Hazel's Story, though that's unlikely to survive the writing process. I've got it outlined and have been finding it effortless to write so far. I'm not far into it, and it's pretty much the lowest priority at the moment, but I'm excited to see where Hazel takes me.

Anyway, that's a not-so-short synopsis of where I am currently with my recently revitalized writing career.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: The Red Queen's Gamble by David Sherwood

The Red Queen's Gambit
David Sherwood
Genre: SciFi
Find it on Amazon
Author's Smashwords Profile

In The Red Queen's Gamble, Mr. Sherwood has created an intriguing story that mixes elements of Fantasy, Science Fiction and the culture of internet gaming into a pleasant mélange. While at times it slowed down, overall the story held my attention. The strange and chaotic world that the author presents is well crafted and fresh.

The culture of the gaming community, and the people that populate it are extraordinarily well conceived and developed. Having played online games for a long time I was pleased at how accurately some of the aspects of it reflected my own experiences. From the set of gamers obsessed with attractive avatars to the ones that seem to revel in pushing the limits of strange, I felt like I'd met some of these people in my time online.

The main character was believable and sympathetic but I really wanted more of her. In the middle of the story she more or less disappears for a while. That was also the chunk of the book that didn't consume my attention.

In some places it felt like the author was trying to juggle too many storylines and too many characters. A lot of these sub plots and the character relationships weren't followed up as far as I'd have liked but honestly I can't think of a way to do it and still have the book remain focused and well directed.

Despite any perceived flaws I found that I enjoyed this book and am glad I read it.

If you enjoy books like those of Robert Bevan (who writes highly original and amusing stories based around a group of people trapped in a Dungeons & Dragons game) and Ernest Cline (Ready Player One), you might find this a solid read. As such I'm giving it 4 stars

(disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: Monkey Number 100030338732 and Other Stories by C.C. Hogan

Monkey Number 100030338732 and Other Stories
C.C. Hogan
genre: science fiction short stories
Find it at Amazon
Author's website

I’m not usually a big fan of short stories. I prefer longer works. I mean, if I’m enjoying a story I just want it to go on longer. A bite sized snack that just doesn’t satisfy. Another thing I often struggle with is that in a collection of stories maybe one or two grab me but the rest are either flat or just not on the same level. It’s hard to maintain energy and consistency across stories that are usually crafted separately. So when I picked up C.C. Hogan’s collection of four short stories entitled Monkey Number 100030338732 and Other Stories and I was extremely pleasantly surprised.

Hogan offers up four captivating stories, each with an interesting premise, clean execution and an unexpected ending that kept me hooked. Each tale starts out with the barest bones, an absence of context that the author then builds on one brick at a time until you find yourself living within the well constructed walls of a superb story. Hogan manages to maintain this level of storytelling throughout the entire collection.

I won’t break down the stories individually. I didn’t read anything about them until I dove into the first one and I couldn’t put the book down until I finished the last one. When I later read the blurb on the stories I was glad I hadn’t known what was going on. The slow reveal is so engaging.

I will say that I loved the second and fourth stories the best. The New Futurist is a tiny little thread that twists and winds through your brain—the very style of the prose reflecting the mindset of the main character. The Glass Blower, which makes up the final half of this volume is by far the most in depth story in the book, and hints at what a longer work by this author might be like.

Of course, now that I’m done with the book, I really wish there were more. I would love to see what Hogan can do with a novel length offering. Hint, hint.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: Hollow's Charge by Arielle LeClair

Hollow’s Charge
Arielle LeClair
genre: Fantasy

Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed this book. When Arielle LeClair publishes subsequent works set in the world she has created, I’ll be there to read those.

This novel contains all the important aspects of a good fantasy novel: intrigue and adventure, a well thought out world, magic and a touch of romance. LeClair builds and maintains tension well, keeping the reader’s attention throughout the entire novel. The magic system is subtle yet central to the story, effective yet not overdone. 

Character development is well executed. I had no problems accepting the motivations of the various players. Character development and growth was handled well. One could say that the villain is a tad one dimensional. I wouldn’t have minded having at least one thing that might make her briefly sympathetic. A moment of accessibility here and there to give her more depth. But even this issue isn’t critical.

The only thing about this novel that I struggled with were the sudden shifts in perspective. I’m not sure if LeClair was specifically going for the omniscient third person or not, but I found the sudden changes in point of view jarring in many cases. For a stretch we would be seeing the action as if behind one character and then abruptly in the same scene we’d see the action from another character point of view. It might be better if these changes were isolated by chapter. On the other hand, perhaps other readers would not struggle with this as much as me.

There were a few typos or other small issues here and there but nothing that bothered me. The action and flow of the book easily reduced any impact those things might have had. 

But when the dust settled, this was a good book that I enjoyed reading and can easily recommend to readers that enjoy straight up, old school fantasy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: In the Hands of the Unknown by A.E. Hellstorm

In the Hands of the Unknown: A novel about the Star Students of the Golden Fleece Society

A.E. Hellstorm
genre: horror
Find it at Amazon
Author's webpage

First, I must point out that while this is the first book in a series that hasn't been completed, the story stands alone and has no cliffhanger.

This book really grabbed me from the first page and held on tight, a death grip pulling me through the story relentlessly toward what I would describe as sublime terror in the final chapters. I found this slow, inexorable building of tension and fear reminiscent of the works of Lovecraft—some of my favorite horror fiction of all time. What started out as macabre and disturbing was horrifying by the final pages. In a world of horror dominated by gore, shock value and slaughter, it was wonderful to read this book.

That's not to say that the writing style itself is the same as the style of Lovecraft. The voice is unique, the storytelling modern and easy to read.

Told in the third person, I found the voice of the main character extremely easy to get behind. While Miriam/Claire is a strong female protagonist, she's also vulnerable—a skillfully woven combination of the two sides. This gave her some depth that really drew me in. While I've always had a fascination for strong female leads, some of the best ones out there have vulnerabilities. The other characters were just as well built. None of the central ones were single faceted foils. Especially well handled was Cyrus, one of Claire's partners.

Every book has technical issues, but overall this was quite clean. There were very few errors—definitely not enough to pull me out of the story.

The only thing I really struggled with was wrapping my head around the backstory that will back the entire series. The author dribbles out details about this over the course of the story but when the dust settled I felt that I wanted to know more about the Star Students of the Golden Fleece Society. Some of this might be simply my own failing in not understanding some common mythology or archetype. I also imagine that more will become clear in future books in the series.

I really hope that the author will write more works like this. It's been far too long since subtlety, tone and mood were so dominant in horror fiction. Don't get me wrong—it's not ALL subtlety; there are more than a few scenes that are violent and frightening. One actually made me uncomfortable, and that can be an important dynamic in horror fiction. But overall the tension rises from beginning to end in a slow, yet powerful progression, never letting up or allowing the reader to relax.

I strongly recommend this for readers that enjoy this kind of horror and I really am hoping to see more books in this style from this author.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book on my own, the author did not solicit a review. The views in this review are mine and mine alone.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's all about YOU today!

Today I'm going to try something I've not done before.

I invite all authors, artists, musicians that wander across this blog to add a comment to this post telling a bit about what you do, links to your work and basically take a little space to self-promote.

So tell my readers about yourself! I look forward to seeing what shows up :)