Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "By Divine Right"

Okay, okay. It's not Friday, but it's been over a week since the last book review. Remember there's no post this Friday, so I'll see you next week, when I'll resume my normal posting schedule (Tuesdays and Fridays). 

The Short:

By Divine Right
Part of The Darkwater Saga

By: Patrick W. Carr

5/5 Stars

What: A medieval murder investigator must discover who has been stealing the divine gifts before it’s too late.

Recommended to those who like: Mystery, loosely Christian, fantasy

The Long:

I was really intrigued by the concept of this novella. It’s a quick read and the ebook is free in most formats.

Willet Dura is troubled by his ability to sense murders when they happen. However, as a murder investigator in a medieval-style city, he can’t argue that it’s a poor asset for his job. But when a string of murders takes place that seems to be targeted at the city’s gifted citizens, he has reason to suspect that there’s a larger plot at play.

This book is a nice blend of mystery/suspense and fantasy action. There is a strong Christian undercurrent to the book, but it doesn’t dominate the plot. There’s also a small touch of romance. The writing is tight and the fast pace combined with the short length of the book makes it a nice afternoon read. I look forward to starting the full-length novels in this series.

Any thoughts? If you’re interested in more of Mr. Carr’s work, you can check out another one of my reviews of his work here. 

Due to the holiday and  traveling, I may be slow to respond to comments. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is a Space Opera?

For those of you who have somehow missed the news, Star Wars Episode VII came out this weekend! In my opinion, it was a great start to a new trilogy and a good/decent movie on its own. I'm looking forward to seeing the next movies.

This post isn't about The Force Awakens, but rather the subgenre to which it belongs: the space opera.

From here.
The space opera is a subgenre of science fiction and focuses on space battles and drama, typically involves romance, and has a limited focus on technology. Earth and the known universe may or may not be involved, but the story likely centers around a larger than life character trying to save the galaxy, universe, or planet. Another example of a space opera would be Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, though it leans a little closer to traditional sci-fi in some ways. 

The genre can be separated from "hard sci-fi" which has a much stronger focus on plausible technology and what the future might be like. These stories often center on Earth and/or the known universe. The characters in hard sci-fi are unlikely to be attempting to save the galaxy or to be larger than life. 

For those more familiar with fantasy, think of the difference between the two as epic fantasy vs. urban fantasy for a good comparison. Personally, I prefer epic fantasy and space operas. 

Which do you prefer? Have you seen Star Wars yet (no spoilers please)?

Merry Christmas! I'll see you next Tuesday with a book review.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Firebird"

Thanks for bearing with me while I took some time to let my brain to recuperate from three exams in thirteen hours. Also, please vote in the poll in the right side bar! I'd really appreciate your feedback. 

The Short:

Book 1 of the Firebird Trilogy

By: Kathy Tyers

4.5/5 Stars

What: She was supposed to die, but what if there’s something better than dying for a corrupt planet?

Recommended to those who like: Science fiction, Christian, space battles, some romance.

The Long:

Today we finally get something outside of my recent fantasy streak!

When I started the blog, I told myself I wouldn’t do “half” stars. But I really couldn’t decide between 4 and 5 stars on this book. The action, world-building, and characters suck you right in, but the beginning is a bit awkward and cumbersome, for lack of a suitable word. So, four and a half. (Also, the cover on this! This is some beautiful artwork.)

Lady Firebird is the third daughter in the royal family of Netaia, making her best option an honorable death in battle and, in lieu of that, a quick suicide of her own choosing.

But when suicide fails in the middle of battle and she’s taken prisoner, her whole world is turned upside down. Could there be something better than dying for a royal family that's been corrupted? 

I really enjoyed the story and it kept surprising me at every turn. There’s telekinesis, romance, some great flying scenes, and a fair amount of political intrigue involved in the story. The Christian allegorical theme is strong, but well done and not overwhelming.

I look forward to reading the next book! Currently, Firebird is available for free on Amazon Kindle, if you’d like to give it a try.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sequel Review: "From Darkness Won"

This is a sequel review. You can also read my reviews of books one and two. Spoilers may lurk in this review for those who have not read the first two books. I'll see you next Friday!

The Short:

From Darkness Won
Blood of Kings Trilogy, Book 3

By: Jill Williamson

5/5 Stars

What: Achan must take his rightful place as king of all Er’Rets and banish Darkness from the land. Vrell must come to grips with the web of lies that she’s sown over the past year.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, sword fights, Christian, and have read books one and two.

The Long:

I’m always a little frightened to read the last book in a series. Sometimes, it’s because I don’t want to leave the characters. Other times, it’s because I’m afraid it just won’t be a fitting end for “people” who have meant so much to me in the hours I’ve known them.

From Darkness Won did not disappoint. The action is still well-paced and the character development is beautifully done. It really felt like a fitting end to the series.

I have to tip my hat to Ms. Williamson for the romance in this book, as it certainly isn’t your normal, recycled YA love triangle, which was refreshing. The characters felt authentic in their confused emotions and their ability to make difficult decisions.

While the end, in some ways, felt like it took quite some time to finish, I thought that it was well worth the extra pages. There are very few series that I have finished with such a profound sense of closure.

While I’m sad to leave Achan and his friends behind, I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Have you read this series? What are your thoughts? 

Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right! (You can select multiple answers.)

Remember that there will be no post next Tuesday. I'll see next Friday!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blog Tag: "The Writer's Life for Me"

I thought a blog tag would be fun this week, so I stole this one from Victoria over at The Endless Oceans of My Mind. Would you like to see more blog tags? Leave a comment, use the contact form, or use the poll I've set up to let me know what you'd like to see in the coming months. 

Rules: Thank the person who tagged you, repost the picture, answer the ten questions, and tag five to ten bloggers be a lazy bum and just let people who want the tag steal it. 

1. What kind of writer are you?  I'm a halfway-plotting, speculative fiction writer. I've written some dystopian and a fair amount of fantasy. I'm still waiting on a good science fiction idea to come to mind. 

2. When did you start writing? What made you want to try it? I have a journal entry from third grade saying that I wanted to be a country store owner, florist, author, or veterinarian when I grew up. I guess I've always been a voracious reader, so it came naturally to me that I would want to make up my own stories. 

My first real attempt at writing creatively came at the end of my sixth grade year. What started out as a scrap of paper in a binder when I didn't feel like paying attention in class turned into a notebook that I kept between my mattress and box spring that I would write in by the light of my alarm clock, which turned into a fantasy novel/novella that I typed out on my first computer. I haven't touched it for several years, but the story is very near and dear to my heart. 

In addition to my creative writing, I blog (bet none of you knew that) and do some personal journaling.

3. What inspires your stories? That could be an entire blog post in itself. I really enjoy people watching and just playing out "what-if" scenarios in my head. 

4. What themes do you like to explore in your writing? Wow, this is another question that I could write a whole post about. I notice that things in the world that frustrate me have a way of spilling over into my writing. My faith also plays a large part in my writing and most of my works have a lot of allusions to faith, are allegorical in nature, or faith plays a large part in the story. Friendship plays a large role and it's not uncommon to find a lonely character in the books I write. 

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter, or a bit of both? I've pantsed quite a few stories, but I'm trying to plot a little bit more. I really struggle with character development, so I've been trying to be more proactive about exploring my characters beforehand. Before NaNo this year, I tried using the snowflake method to plot. While I followed most of the plot, I didn't really even get to all the main points I had planned out. However, this book should at least have a beginning, middle, climax, and end, unlike some other things I've written. 

6. Where are you at in your journey? (Querying, agented, published?) I'm looking at doing self-publishing. I'm not really sure where my life is going to take me at this point, so I'm hesitant to tie myself to a publishing company and the timelines and expectations that come with that. I'm sort of stuck in editing land right now. 

7. Have you entered any writing contests? Finaled? Won? I've entered a few over at Go Teen Writers. I've never finaled or anything. If you count scholarship essay writing, I've done fairly well with some of those; however none of them have solely been based off of the essay. 

8. Who are your writing heroes? There are too many to count. Tolkien, because his works have been really a big part of me growing up; L'Engle, because she had A Wrinkle in Time rejected many, many times but still published it (and it's one of my favorite books); my middle school English teacher who offered to read my aforementioned manuscript and encouraged me to keep writing...I could think of even more if I really tried. 

9. Have you ever been to a writing conference? What was your best or worst conference experience? I've never gone to one, but I'd like to. I've considered going to the Realm Maker's conference. I'm really weird about meeting "famous" people, though, and a lot of my favorite authors go to that conference. I'd be constantly tripping over my own feet and stuttering. 

10. Top three tips for newbie writers? 
a). You're probably never going to feel like you've "got" it. I've been writing for years and still can't figure out a good way to write. I haven't found the perfect system. I have a lot of insecurities about my writing. Don't get discouraged by this and...

b). Keep writing. Even when it feels like you're getting nowhere. 

c). Write what matters to you. Don't change what you write because you think it might give you a better shot at getting published or earn you more money. Writing is something that has to come from your heart and it's much more enjoyable if what you write is important to you. 

Any thoughts or questions? Don't forget to fill out the survey!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Fiction Fix: "Mardan's Mark"

The Short

Mardan's Mark

Mardan's Mark Series, Book One

By: Kathrese McKee

5/5 Stars

What: A princess must rescue the heir to the throne before war breaks out between the two kingdoms. But will her heart be ensnared even if she isn't?

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, pirates, some romance, Christian/Clean.

The Long

(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

I was pleasantly surprised to receive my first email asking me to review a book (up until now, I've just been wandering around the internet/my personal book collection/book stores to find books). 

Then the worry set in. What if I didn't like it? If I buy a book on my own and don't like the book, it just sort of sits around and I don't review it (I try to only review works that I'm comfortable giving at least 3 stars). But if an author gives me their book...how do you return it? 

Mardan's Mark certainly didn't give me any problems! Although it had a little more romance in it than I would typically pick up, it was still a nice fantasy read. 

Srilani is the First Princess, meaning that she's second in succession to her younger brother. Placed through rigorous training her entire life, she knows how to handle herself. But it seems like all of her decisions are out of her hands--that is, until disaster strikes and she's not only responsible for herself, but for her siblings as well. And can she trust the former slaves of a pirate to protect them?

The book is a well-paced read with plenty of action and high stakes. There is a Christian element to it, but it's more of a background theme. I enjoyed the character development in this book as well. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a more "realistic" fantasy (no magic, dragons, etc.), doesn't mind some romance, and enjoys a clean, well-written book. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ms. McKee's work. 

I'd love to hear from you! Comment below if you have any thoughts or questions. I also take book recommendations. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NaNo Wrap-up and Blog Update

Looking Back

Wow! Is it really December already? 

After a last minute file deletion scare (Dad was super awesome and remote accessed my computer from over a hundred miles away and fixed it without a sweat), I won NaNoWriMo 2015 at about 4:30 on November 30th. 

Looking back, I'm still shocked that I did it. If you'll recall, I set out at the beginning of the month to write 30,000 words. Here I am, with 50,000 words under my belt in a tidy word document with more typos than I'd like to see in a lifetime. 

I've learned quite a bit from this NaNo. I haven't won a "real" 50k month since my first one in 2012 and I've taken a bit to reflect on why I was more successful this time around:
  • I wrote something every day. Sometimes it was only 50 words with my eyes closed, but I wrote every day. 
  • I didn't give up, even when I wasn't sure I could make it. Looking back on previous years where I didn't meet my goal, I often flatlined around 40k. This year, I wrote close to 8,000 words in the last two days. The last thousand or so were really hard, but I made it. 
  • I didn't sacrifice sleep. If I was tired, I made sure that I slept. I took care of myself, made my schoolwork a priority, and wrote when I could. I think one of the reasons I've burned out in the past is because I would refuse to take care of myself. If something is taking your time to sleep away on a regular basis, it's hard to enjoy it. 
The story itself is in rough shape. I went down a rabbit trail about halfway through and didn't even reach the climax I had so carefully plotted out. It's going to be a longer work than I've written before, most likely. But, it's an epic fantasy. Short doesn't belong in the same sentence, unless it's describing dwarves or gnomes. I plan to continue working on it as I have time over the next few weeks, which brings me to....

Looking Ahead

Next week (December 7th) I will post as normal (Tuesday and Friday).

The week of  December 14th is my exam week. That Monday, I have three exams (7:45 AM, 1 PM, and 8 PM), followed by an exam on Tuesday. Suffice it to say that I will not be posting on Tuesday the 15th because my brain will be mush. However, there will be a normal Friday post.

The weeks of the 21st and the 28th, I am planning on only posting Tuesdays due to traveling and Christmas and New Years and eating too much sugar.

And that brings us to January! (Scary!)

I will be scaling back on the "What is..." posts starting in January. So, what type of topics would you like to see? Friday Fiction Fix will still be sticking around (I do welcome suggestions for those, as well!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What is Freelance?

According to Merriam-Webster, "freelance" can be either an adjective or a noun. In adjective form, it means "earning money by being hired to work on different jobs for short periods of time rather than by having a permanent job with one employer". (Also, I would suggest signing up for Merriam-Webster's "word of the day" program--there are some really interesting words out there).

Its first use was in 1820 in the book Ivanhoe to describe a medieval mercenary. The warrior's lance was "free" of any obligation to a certain lord or kingdom, but was up for hire. Of course, the meaning has changed significantly since then.
From here.
And if you don't mind a bit of vulgarity and innuendo,
A Knight's Tale is certainly a good movie for a laugh. 

So, what does freelance have to do with writing?

Freelance writers may write short articles for newspapers, blogs, or other publications, changing up where they work based on what jobs are available. Freelance editors are in business for themselves (rather than working for a publishing company or some such) and do various types of work for different authors and publications.

Have you ever considered freelance writing or editing?