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A week of Kermit Flail

Hi, how have you been? It's been quite an eventful week for me. I meant to blog earlier but I got distracted by a book (more on that below).

Writer Week 2013

As I mentioned last time, this past week I have been off work specifically to work on my writing. I didn't quite get everything done that I'd hoped to, i.e. I didn't manage to finish the current round of revisions of Symmetry Breaking. However, I did write 2000 words (or very, very close, stopping only because I'd reached the end of a scene) all five days of my writer week. I was fairly tired by Friday. If I wrote that much every week I'd soon get used to it, but it was a bit of a push this week. All in all I'm proud of my effort, and I wish I could do this every week.

Profile on Helen Lowe's blog

I was profiled on Christchurch fantasy writer Helen Lowe's blog. Go check it out.

Thanks for the opportunity, Helen!

The Ministry Initiative Kickstarter

The Ministry Initiative kickstarter campaign started this week. The campaign is raising money to fund a new anthology and a fate core-based RPG in the world of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Pip and Tee gave me my first break, accepting my story 'The Wrong Camera' into the related podcast and ebook series 'Tales from the Archives'. I hope you'll take a look at the kickstarter and read the existing books too if you haven't done so. They're very good, and I'm eagerly awaiting the upcoming anthology and the third novel.

Forged in Blood I

The sixth novel in Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series was released yesterday. As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of these books and so of course I bought it straight away and read the whole thing in one day. 

I am so, so sorry to anyone who I have already convinced to try this series. Not because it's bad (it is brilliant, by the way). I am sorry because Forged in Blood I ends in an EPIC CLIFFHANGER OF DOOM. Seriously. You must read this series, but if you haven't started it yet, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES START UNTIL THE FINAL BOOK IS OUT. You won't have to wait long. As Lindsay is an indie author, the expected release date is August this year.

Wait, what am I saying???? That's months away! I can't wait that long! Wah!!! Sniffle.

The book that currently has me flailing like Kermit the Frog every 5 minutes, in both a good and a bad way

Current progress on Symmetry Breaking:

In revision

Current progress on Reality Shifting:

Currently Reading

Re-reading a certain scene in Forged in Blood I over and over ::wink wink::


Book review: The Emperor's Edge, books 1–5

A few months ago I downloaded a free book to my Kindle. The cover caught my eye, and since it was free, I thought 'Why not?'. Of course, because it was free, I didn't read it right away. (Which I am very glad about, because at the time there were only four books in the series, and book 4 ends on a huge cliffhanger!)

The book is called The Emperor's Edge, and it is the first book in a series of the same name, by author Lindsay Buroker.

Anyway, last week I listened to a podcast interview with Lindsay Buroker over at The Creative Penn, and after hearing her talk about her books, I decided to give The Emperor's Edge a go. What followed was a five-day period in which I neglected to answer emails, get proper sleep and (gasp!) check Twitter because I was too busy reading.

The Emperor's Edge series is about a group rather like 'Robin Hood and his Merry Men'; misunderstood misfits who want to do good and help the Emperor, except the pesky bounties on their heads keep getting in the way. It is set in an industrial era secondary world with fantastical elements (magic, etc.). The group includes a female ex-enforcer (police officer); an assassin with an unparallelled work ethic; a womanising dandy with a near-unbeaten duelling record; an ex-alcoholic scholar with a tragic past; a mute ex-slave; and a punk kid with lots of magical talent but very little magical experience. The first three books each chronicle this group fixing a relatively stand-alone problem, although there is an overarching plot linking the three adventures together. Several months pass between each of these books. Books four, five, and the upcoming book 6 are a trilogy covering the same adventure, and book five, at least, started straight after the cliffhanger at the end of book 4.

These books are a lot of fun to read. This crazy band of misfits, however well intentioned, have more success blowing things up and causing mayhem than anything else. They destroy mansions, they destroy trains, they destroy underwater bases, they crash dirigibles . . . and garbage trucks . . . Except for a stolen police truck, not a single mode of transport that they acquire makes it to the end of the current book still in their possession and in one piece.

The books are character-focussed. Most of the plot hangs on an awkward and angsty little tangle of interpersonal relationships (not quite a love triangle, but more awkward than one because of who is involved in it). Although my credibility was initially stretched in this regard, particularly in the second book when our heroine was acting rather immature, Lindsay hit her stride portraying this relationship in the third book and I have been invested in it ever since.

The world-building is weaker than the character-building. All the places the characters visit are vivid and well described, but the reader is given very little idea of what is 'over the next hill'.

There are some problems I had with the books, especially the first two. There was one rather eye-rolling occurrence of hero-saves-the-girl-from-being-raped; and, as mentioned earlier, in the second book the heroine's behaviour made me think of some of the more stupid things I said around guys I liked when I was too young to know better. But even if these problems were mistakes, they helped to portray the main character's growth. By the fourth book Amaranthe is far too badass to cower and wait to be saved, and she's mature enough to begin to deal with the relationship she is in.

Occasionally I was jolted out of the story by an unusual typo or misuse of a word, such as 'accept' being used instead of 'except'. Although Lindsay Buroker hired an editor to help her clean up the books, my guess is that she did not also hire a proofreader.

Other than these few problems, I found the books engaging, addictive, and enjoyable. They are an example of an indie author who has worked hard to establish her niche and her brand, and whose works have rapidly caught up to the quality level of traditionally published books in the fantasy genre.

All five books are available from the main eBook retailers.


Googling at the right time

Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly irate that my copy of Womanthology, which I backed on Kickstarter a year ago, still hadn't arrived. I know that the project creator has been very sick, but still, I was sent an email saying the international orders were being shipped months ago. I've trawled all over the Kickstarter listing, sending emails and leaving comments hoping for some response. Sadly, nothing.

Sigh. I should learn that Google knows most things. When I Googled Womanthology the top link was a blog that had a post asking for people who haven't received their copies to add their names to a list. Sigh. It looks like my copy did go missing, after all.

Which I figured. Because Womanthology has been available on Amazon and in stores since March. New Zealand may suffer the tyranny of distance, but it's not on the Moon.

Comments (2)

Book review: books 1 & 2 of the Shattered Messiah trilogy

The Last GoddessThe Last Goddess by C.E. Stalbaum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book caught my eye in the Amazon Kindle fantasy genre list. I wanted to try a self-published fantasy novel, so I downloaded the sample, and then quickly bought the whole book.

The Last Goddess is about an 'information broker' (read: spy/smuggler) who purchases, amongst some ancient artefacts, the body of a woman held in stasis in a coffin. This woman is apparently the Kirshal (Messiah), hidden for a thousand years, and is prophesied to bring about a new age. Of course, there are many people who would like to get their hands on the Kirshal for various, not always benign, reasons.

I found this book to be a gripping, enjoyable read. I was swept away by the story quite thoroughly. However, there were a few things about it that irritated me:

  1. Some of the characters and dialogue forms (particularly the banter) have obviously been copied from the TV series Firefly. The main character is called Nathan Rook. I kid you not. For the first third of the book, I felt uncomfortable with how the characterisation was depending on Firefly as it is not what I would consider an honest practice; but from then on the characters started to stand on their own two feet and become interesting in their own rights. The author should have gone back to the beginning of the book during revisions and updated the characterisations to match the end of the book.
  2. Many conversations were at least twice as long as they needed to be. Characters argued back and forth for too long and rehashed old ground far too often. While this is normal in real speech, dialogue in fiction is supposed to be a shorthand approximation.
  3. Sans map, I found it difficult at the beginning to keep straight in my head which faction was which. It didn't help that in this book the reader has to keep track of both nations and religious groups which don't overlap neatly. Also, there were some names which were too similar to each other; I kept getting Edehans and Ebarans muddled up, even though they were very different groups of people!

Despite the flaws, I enjoyed the book. It is as good as a lot of traditionally published books I've read, and better than many!

The Last Empress (The Shattered Messiah, #2)The Last Empress by C.E. Stalbaum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought The Last Empress, the second book in the Shattered Messiah trilogy, shortly after reading book one. I have to say, although this book was just as gripping as the first book, I didn't think it was quite as good overall. I have two reasons for this:

  1. There were too many POV characters and plot threads for the size of the book. It jumped around about as much as a Wheel of Time book, even though it was less than half the length. A few of the plot threads could have been trimmed.
  2. The book was a lot darker than the first, which isn't in itself a bad thing. This extra darkness was added in part through the characters making a lot of stupid mistakes. Unfortunately, some of those mistakes were out of character and were unbelievable considering who the characters are. The two main mistakes that bothered me were Rook not being overly concerned about Aston, and Selaste letting the four mages go behind enemy lines. These mistakes lessened the characters, and showed them to be idiots.

Despite these issues, I am looking forward to reading book three when it is published.

View all my reviews


We are the media

Tom is an inspirational independent musician from Melbourne. I heard about him through listening to and following Amanda Palmer. Tom's "F**ck Plan B" movement inspired me, and it's one of the reasons why I am trying so hard at this whole writing thing at the moment.

I love Tom's music, and I'm proud to support his album.

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