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It’s been forever and a day since I did a book review. Between working on my own stuff and other projects, I haven’t had much time to read. But I finally picked up a book that I’d like to talk about!

First of all, there are two seemingly unrelated situations that lead to me finally grabbing this particular book. The first took place years ago, when I was still in the midst of writing my Mystery, Murder, and Magic series (probably about the time I was working on Dames and Diviners). I was in a Barnes & Noble when I came across a book called Hard Magic. I skimmed the back and picked up the keywords of “private eye” and “magic”, and while I really wanted to read it, I was too worried about being influenced while still working on my own hard-boiled fantasy story. So I passed it up.

This past year, I became friends with another fantasy reader who specifically likes non-epic fantasy stuff, which I’ve been getting more and more into (that’s a whole other topic for a blog post). He suggested the series Monster Hunter International, which I took note of because it sounded really interesting.

Fast forward to last month when I was in B&N again spending some gift cards that had accumulated, and I saw Monster Hunter International. They only had one copy of the first book, though, and it was in poor shape. I have a thing about buying new books, so I passed it up. However, the book next to it was Hard Magic – apparently it was the same author, Larry Correia! So, upon my friend’s recommendation of one of the author’s other series, and my past interest in Hard Magic, I picked it up.

hardmagicNow that the back story is over, let’s move onto the book itself, shall we? My overall summary of the book is this – it’s fantasy + alternate fiction + X-Men + Men in Black. It’s a ridiculous (in a good way) mish-mash of genres that work together to weave a dark, yet occasionally lighthearted, story. The setting is the 1930s in an alternate world where people are being born with magical abilities at an exponential rate. These Actives, as they’re known, have varying types of abilities as well as varying levels of power.

At the beginning, there are two unrelated main stories that switch back and forth. One is of Faye, an innocent and sometimes naive, but not unintelligent, young girl who also happens to be a Traveler. That means she has the magical ability to jump from one place to another instantly. Teleportation, if you will. Her foster father, also a Traveler, is killed by some mysterious and menacing men, leaving her with her foster father’s dying instructions and secrets to uncover.

The other story is of Jake Sullivan, an ex-con who spent much of his time in prison reading up on and experimenting with magic. He’s what’s known as a Heavy, or, as he prefers to be called, a Gravity Spiker. This means he can control the gravitational pull in a given area. A common ability, but the knowledge that he gains of his own powers is what makes him dangerous. In exchange for his parole, he works for the government in tracking down dangerous Actives. While on his last job, he runs into an old flame, Delilah.  She has the ability to make herself super strong (otherwise known as a Brute). But she’s not alone; the group that she’s working with seems to have motives that don’t coincide with what the government tells Jake.

The two stories eventually meet, and the nexus of the two is the Grimnoir Society, a secret group of Actives that works under the radar to keep the world safe. But as the story unfolds, it turns out that what everyone thought was the biggest threat to world was just the beginning.

I loved this book. I loved it so much that I ordered the next two in the series from Amazon before I had even finished it. Because of the interplay of different genres, anything can happen with the turn of a page – a magical battle, a dog fight involving zeppelins and blimps, pirates, ninjas, and even otherworldly encounters. It’s been a long time since I used “page turner” to describe a book, but that’s what Hard Magic is.

One of the letdowns of the book for me – and it’s a minor one – is that there is mention on the back cover and briefly in the book about Jake Sullivan turning to private investigating after being released from prison. And this is what led me to think that it might have some hard-boiled elements to it. But it’s not something that the author decided to go into, and because of that I kind of wish he hadn’t said anything to begin with.

The only other problem I had was that one of the characters (I won’t say which one for fear of spoilers) didn’t feel fully explored by the end of the book, which was a shame because I feel that they would have been much more interesting and given the interactions with other characters a bit more depth.

What I did enjoy greatly was Correia’s consistency of voice with the characters. When he switched back and forth between points of view, each section felt just the way it should from that character’s POV. It was refreshing to get that, when many authors tend to just stick with one voice – their own.

Hard Magic comes very highly recommended by yours truly. It’s fun, it’s intelligent, and I would love to see it turned into a TV series someday. And it definitely makes me want to seek out Monster Hunter International.

More reviews as I finish the rest of the books in the series!

patreon-headerWhile this technically doesn’t have much to do with writing, it sort of does in that it involves my webcomic, for which I write as well as draw.  I recently added my webcomic, Bardsworth, on Patreon and would like to spread the word.  For those of you who don’t know what Patreon is, the simple answer is that it’s a way for creative entrepreneurial folks like myself to make money.  It’s taking the ages-old system of being a patron of the arts and modernizing it by allowing people like you to pledge a certain amount of money towards the art per month.

I’ve been doing my webcomic for over nine years now and I have a lot of loyal fans.  I was hoping that by providing a way for people to show support I could, in time, make it my full-time job.  That’s a long ways away, though.

If you’ve never read Bardsworth, start at the beginning and work your way forward (don’t let the terrible artwork at the beginning fool you; I get much better).  If you like it, think about support it with a few bucks a month.  Or you could pass the information along to someone who might like it.

At the very least, check out some of the other projects on Patreon and consider supporting other creative folks.

A Little Holiday Marketing

Please pardon the language, as there is really no other way to put this, but I’ve done a piss-poor job of marketing my books this past year. With the exception of the book fair I went to in April and smattering of online sales that I could count on one hand, I have not sold much at all. And that’s my fault; with all the things going on in my life and all the other creative projects I’ve been attending to, I haven’t been able to put a marketing plan into action. (And for all you potential spammers out there who want to push their marketing services on me – I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY FOR IT. So siddown and shaddup.)

I hope to have my next book out by April or May 2015, and that’ll help give me a little bit of a push. I could use the momentum of a new release to sell my previous stuff. But, in the meantime, I was hoping maybe some of you might be able to help out. With the holiday season coming, I know people are always looking for creative gift ideas. So how about suggesting a barely-known fantasy author’s works for said gifts?

All it takes is a few moments to share the link to one of my books or even to this website with someone who enjoys reading fantasy novels. Heck, you could even use the “Gift” options at Smashwords or Amazon to send someone the ebook files. And don’t forget that both Blood of the Mother and Fantasy Noir are available in paperback version through CreateSpace!

So consider this my last-ditch attempt at a marketing push for this year, and next year I will be working my butt off to do much better about it. And if you take the time to share my works with someone else, I’ll consider it your Christmas gift to me!

Ever Moving Forward

The edits for the Bardsworth novel are on hold for the moment while Katie’s job is taking up much of her time. But I don’t like to sit still and let things not get done. Especially when I’m on a plane, which I was last week going to California and back. That’s time that can be spent productively. Well, when I wasn’t reading, but that’s another blog post.

As I mentioned in my last post, when I wrote Blood of the Mother my outline was pretty scarce. Most of it was in my head. I had notes to refer to, but I should have had a lot more, considering that I was planning for this story to span the course of three, maybe four books. So before I could get writing, and even before I have an outline that I can rely on, I had to go back over my story and pull notes from it. Reverse engineering, if you will. Things like place names, or physical characteristics of secondary characters, or little descriptions that might have otherwise escaped my memory.

Well, I managed to finish that up, and even found a few errors I’m going to have to correct. So now I can finish putting together a story bible (a compendium of all my notes) and then move onto finishing the outline. I’m hoping to have everything in place for New Years so that I can get started on the first draft during our annual writers retreat.

I mostly wrote this post to show people that writers never stop. We don’t sit around daydreaming (okay, sometimes we do, but that’s only when we’re really supposed to be doing chores or something). And we certainly don’t sit still. When one project ends, the next begins. Sometimes we even have two or three being juggled in the air. And that’s in addition to the routines of daily life, sometimes even a day job.

And people wonder why writers tend to be neurotic.

Continuing my apparent pattern of posting one entry per month, I felt it was time to talk about my current project status. As I stated last month, the first draft of the Bardsworth novel (still untitled) is done and I’ve done my first round of edits and rewrites. It’s going to go to Katie for further proofreading, editing, and general thoughts because landing back on my plate for another round. Then there will probably be at least one last round of proofreading and final edits before calling it a day.

If all goes well, I’d like to have the book available in both electronic and paperback formats by April/May. However, I still need to locate an artist with a style that I like who would be willing to do the book cover for me. I know, I’m an artist, and furthermore I’m the artist of Bardsworth. But I don’t want the book to be connected to the comic any more than it needs to be. It’s its own entity with its own life, and I would rather people go into it with different expectations than they would my comic.

That being said, if you have any suggestions for artists that have a lighthearted yet detailed style, please let me know.

Moving forward, while Katie has the Bardsworth novel in her loving care, I’m revisiting notes for The Godblood Chronicles and outlining the next book (tentatively called Blood of the Father). My outline for Blood of the Mother was pretty poor at best because I was still creating the world, but now that I’m writing another story in the same universe, I want to make sure that all my ducks are in a row. It’s shaping all right so far. And while the theme of the first book was faith in its many forms, the theme in this book is going to be courage. Let’s just hope I have the faith and the courage to get it done in a timely manner.

Thanks for being patient with my radio silence! I’m hoping to have some more posts for you in the future. Similarly, if you have any questions you’d like me to tackle or any advice to impart, please contact me and let me know. I can always use fodder for writing posts. :-)

Count This

I just finished up my first draft of the long-gestating Bardsworth novel! What a great feeling it is to finish a manuscript. It’s been a while!

I had to do a little research, however, after a debate that Katie and I had over the word count. To me, word count doesn’t mean much. As long as the story is engaging and complete, I’m happy with it. I know people who get very caught up in the word count stuff, and that just seems needlessly stressful to me.

Now, I was planning on stopping the book much earlier than I did, but Katie made some good points, not just about word count, but about it being a more complete story if I added a few more of my story lines from the comic in there. And she was right – I have no problem admitting that. But once I reached a point where I was 100% certain that the book was done, she brought up the word count thing again. So I looked at a handful of sources online.

Wikipedia isn’t much help, as there are only a few sources cited. Novelist Jane Smiley (someone I’ve never heard of) apparently claims that a novel is typically between 100,000 and 175,000 words. Then they go on to cite National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as saying 50,000 words is novel length. Then they point out that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specifies (for it’s Nebula Award category) that a novel is over 40,000 words.

That’s kind of all over the place, isn’t it?

Moving on, I found a random site called Novel Writing Help that points out that the standard advice one will receive is that novel word count should be between 80,000 and 100,000 words, but then claims that a novel is anything over 50,000. That sounds legit, but the validity of the claim is a little suspect, as the author of the website is hardly an academic, just a shmoe like myself giving out free advice.

Finally, I found a column written by a literary agent named Bree Ogden. Someone wrote in asking about word count, and her answer was that a novel should be between 70,000 and 115,000, with the “sweet spot” being about 90,000.

So let’s review the numbers, shall we? 40,000. 50,000. 90,000. Between 100,000 and 175,000. Between 70,000 and 115,000. It’s enough to give you a headache, isn’t it?  I mean, I guess we could take the average of all those numbers and use that as our figure, but that’s math.  I’m a writer; I don’t do math.

But ultimately, this is what I realized – most of the word count stuff relates exclusively to people who are trying to be published traditionally. But being a self-published writer grants me the freedom to do whatever the heck I want. I can use the numbers as a guideline (whenever I decide which numbers to actually use), but I’m not beholden to a “rule” of the word count. I became a self-published writer so I could break rules. If I haven’t stated it before, I have a problem with authority.  I’m certainly never going to write a 20,000 word story and call it a novel, but if it feels like a novel to me, it’s a novel.

So, how long is the Bardsworth novel? Well, there’s no point in saying anything at this point. It’s the first draft – I’ll be adding and cutting things all over the place. And that’s another reason that I can’t be worried about the word count at this point, because it’s going to change. But as long as the story holds up and everything is structurally sound, in the end I don’t think that people are going to worry about the word count when they’re paying something like $2.99 for a digital download of the novel.

At least, I hope they won’t. Otherwise I might have to find a new audience.

(Just kidding, I love you guys.)

I don’t get to buy many books these days.  One reason is financial.  While we’re doing okay at the moment, books for a long time were on the list of things that we could only buy once in a while.  Yes, I know getting ebooks is cheap, but if you’ve read my previous posts, you know my feelings on ebooks (even though I publish them).  Another reason is that we have such a large collection of books already and no space to put them.  Most of them are in storage at the moment, since we don’t have a permanent residence just yet, but still, the thought of adding to a collection that will take up an entire room is enough to make one leery of buying just one more.  Lastly, finding time to read is tough to do these days, so spending money on a book that I may or may not get around to reading within five years of buying it is a bit of a deterrent.

However, when you receive gift cards, you can’t say no.

I’ve had a gift card to Barnes & Noble since Christmas, but I didn’t get around to using it until today.  I had to find a time when I could go by myself because, frankly, I take forever to decide.  Especially when there’s a monetary limit.  And today was no exception; I actually have no idea how much time I was in the store for, but I know it was at least an hour.

I learned a sad truth, though, and in hindsight it was a pretty obvious one.  It was that bookstores are not as good as they used to be.  There were at least four occasions that I thought of something that I wanted to buy, but I was foiled at every turn when it turned out the store didn’t have those books.  I understand that the world of publishing has grown exponentially, and I’m happy to see so many more names on the shelves, but it makes it difficult to find older titles.  Things leave the shelves and don’t get restocked.  Plus, more and more room in the store is being dedicated to non-book stuff – the Starbucks cafe, the rows and rows of toys and games, the CD section, etc.  I remember the days when I could pop into a book store and find the exact book I was looking for.  Today, I couldn’t even find any books by Piers Anthony!  And he should have been taking up at least two whole shelves!  (Has he been banned from Barnes & Nobles stores or something?)

Anyway, observations aside, I finally decided on two books – Hard Magic by Larry Correia and Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.  The former author was suggested to me by a friend, but in regards to another book, Monster Hunter International.  While I do plan on reading that one eventually, I had spotted Hard Magic years ago when I was still working on my Mystery, Murder, and Magic series and was curious about possible parallels since the overall themes – detectives and magic – were similar.  The latter purchase was simply because I really loved Dexter the TV series (specifically seasons one and two, which I understand were more closely tied to the books than later seasons).  Hopefully I’ll get to read them soon and post reviews, or at least my thoughts on them.

In the meantime, I guess it’ll be a while before I head back to the bookstore.  If that’s the case, I fear how much less I’ll be able to find in the wake of more to discover.

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