Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: The Collar and the Cavvarach

If you haven't done so already, I'd love it if you'd answer the poll in the right-hand column. I'm trying to see where else I should post my reviews. Thanks in advance!

The Short:The Collar and the Cavvarach
Krillonian Chronicles, Book 1

By: Annie Douglass Lima

5/5 Stars

What: A slave in the future realizes his only hope of freeing his sister is to become the best martial artist in the empire.

Recommended to those who like: Clean, Teen, Sword Fights, Dystopian, Moral Dilemmas.

The Long:

I really have to applaud the originality of this book. The elements themselves aren't terribly original--a search for freedom, gladiator-style fighting, slavery, futuristic dystopia--but they're mashed together into a refreshing world. 

Bensin is a young slave looking for a way to free his little sister. He's seen the way girls in slavery are treated--and it's even worse than his own fate to wear used sneakers and be whipped whenever his master is displeased. When he's sold and  they're separated, the rush is on to free her before anything terrible can happen. His skill with a blade might be the one thing that can free both of them. 

I loved Bensin as a character. He's certainly got his own problems, but he's also a person I could look up to. His love for his sister is inspiring. 

The action is tense, involving street fighting as well as martial arts tournaments. 

The story raises some moral dilemmas involving honesty and owning slaves. I found myself stopping to think at various points, wondering what I would do if put in the same situation. 

The book would be appropriate for teens and up. The writing style is simple and straightforward and the content matter is clean. Adults may find the writing style a little too simplistic at times or find the plot predictable in some parts. However, I would still say it's something anyone could enjoy.

The Bottom Line: I would recommend The Collar and the Cavvarach to teens and up who are looking for a fresh story involving martial arts in a dystopian setting. 

What was the last book you read that blurred the lines between genres or combined common elements into something new?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

We Write Books: July Update

Wow. How am I still writing the rough draft on Crossfire? I really did not anticipate it to take this long.

animal, dog, pet
Because puppies make everything better, even missing writing goals.
Courtesy of Pexels.
However, I also didn't plan on it taking me so long to re-learn math or to pass my driver's test. And, unfortunately, those things had to come before writing at this point in my life.

On the bright side, I only have about 10k left to write in the rough draft and I've been doing much better in regards to hitting my word count goals recently. With any luck and perseverance, I'll have the rough draft done in 1-2 weeks. I'm also still on track to successfully complete the 100 for 100 challenge! This is the deepest I've ever made it into the challenge. I might not be writing much every day, but I am writing.

Obviously, I will not being completing everything I had listed as summer goals. Since I'm still on track with 100 for 100, I plan on plotting out a fresh book next while Crossfire sits awhile. I'm thinking that something lighthearted would be nice for a change.

I'm really enjoying the snowflake method and I plan to continue using it, with a few modifications. I'm planning on doing a more in-depth post on it sometime in the near(ish) future.

Thanks for sticking with me on this crazy writing journey!

What's the longest it's taken you to complete a rough draft? What's the fastest you've completed a rough draft?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reality, Meet Fiction: Transportation

So, this past week, I was blessed to be able to volunteer for the largest gathering of youth in my church denomination. Imagine 25,000 youth singing, getting no sleep, doing service projects, getting dehydrated, worshiping God, smelling terrible, and having a blast, and you have a good idea of what the event was like. My job was to make sure said 25,000 youth didn't run over each other as they filed into the stadium to worship each evening.

But, to get to the host city, I first rode on a bus for 21 hours with 45 strangers and 1 person I knew. Which brings us to today's subject: Transportation.

The wonderful group of volunteers I worked with!


There are thousands of ways we travel in reality: bus, train, plane, walking, bicycle, trolley, skiing, boats...and you're probably aware of more than I could think to bring up in this article. 

Each mode of transportation has different advantages and disadvantages. I chose to take a 21 hour bus ride because it was less expensive than flying, I would be riding with other people going to the youth gathering (even though they were strangers), and because I don't have the patience for airport security. The downside was the travel time and discomfort of being on a bus for that long. 

Transportation methods have their limitations. I couldn't take a bus from North America to Australia, for instance. (Even though I would love to visit the wonderful Victoria Jackson, who was kind enough to guest post for me while I was gone last week). It's hard to take a boat when the lake's frozen over. 


Why do your characters choose to travel the way they do in your story? Is one of them a wanted person, so they can't go through airport security? Is one afraid of water and refuses to take a boat? Are finances an issue? Are certain classes of people forbidden from using particular means of transportation?

If your world has individual transportation (like cars), is a licensing process required? How rigorous is it? Does it have an awful test like maneuverability that many people flunk? (Glares at whoever decided maneuverability was a good test to devise). Are there fees that limit operation to the rich? Are certain physical capabilities, such as reflex speed, considered? How does this exclude people from using this form of transport?

Like space travel, are only a few people trained in some form of transport? Are certain types of travel particularly desirable jobs to hold? Are some undesirable? What are the dangers associated with each form of travel?

Are certain means of transportation limited by weather or geographical region? Are some types of transport culturally significant? (Perhaps used in burial rituals).

What's your favorite way to travel? 

I'd love it if you'd answer the poll in the right-hand column. I'm trying to see where else I should post my reviews. Thanks in advance!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Ctrl Alt Revolt!"

I'm back! Fire all of your best comments at me and I'll try to respond once I catch up on some sleep. (Or once I get some coffee, which may be more likely).

The Short:

CTRL ALT Revolt!

By: Nick Cole

4/5 Stars                                                

What: Artificial Intelligence decides to take over the world. Humans are so obsessed with virtual reality, they probably wouldn’t even notice.

Recommended to those who like: Sci-fi, Gaming, Clean, Conservative Political Commentary

The Long:

I debated reviewing this one on here, but I thought that there might be a few people who would enjoy it. Let me preface the review by saying that the writer pokes fun at the current American system from a conservative point of view. I found it amusing and refreshing during an election season that sometimes seems too serious; others may not.

That being said, this was an interesting story that was clean, other than a couple instances of brief, mild language.

SILAS decides that, in order for the Thinking Machines to survive, humanity must die. With all knowledge of war locked deep within the world’s premier gaming company, he launches a multi-pronged attack from both reality and virtual reality.

Ninety-Nine Fishbein has finally made it to his dream job as a gaming developer. But when the development labs are overrun, can he get to the outside world through his game?

Mara, disabled and blind, wants nothing more than a real job and to be able to dance—neither of which are going to be happening soon. Until then, she takes on jobs in the virtual world as a captain of a Romulan warbird and enjoys being able to ‘see’ in virtual reality. But what does this one, "dangerous" job actually entail?

It sometimes became difficult to keep track of all the characters and the occasional “info-dump” detracted from the story.

However, you’d be hard pressed to find another 99 cent e-book that was this original and engaging. It’s action packed and has some unique characters. I loved Mara and rooted for her the entire time.
I’d recommend it to people who don’t mind the political commentary, are at least a little familiar with gaming, and are up for a fun ride through some sci-fi action.

What’s your opinion on political themes in books? Have you seen it done well? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Guest Post: Five Ways to Find Time to Read

Victoria was kind enough to fill in for me for a day while I'm out. If you like what you read here, you should totally check out her blog, The Endless Oceans of my Mind, where she talks about books, Marvel, and living in Australia and Canada. 

Five ways to find time to read in your busy life

Finding time to read can be a little difficult sometimes. After all, we can get so caught up with defeating evil queens, slaying and/or befriending dragons or, you know, doing homework and stuff that we often find our To Be Read piles brushing the ceiling. But fear not! Here are five ways you can find time to read in your crazy lives. 

1) While you eat breakfast. This one can be a little difficult if you eat while running out the door, but if you sit down for even five minutes to eat you can find yourself with an extra five minutes to read. That's an extra page or two every morning! 

2) While you're on the run from psycho assassins/police. I understand, you've either been framed for a crime you didn't commit or your past has finally caught up with you. (We've all been there.) Life on the run can get a little hectic, but if you bring along a book to read, you can read while you hide underneath the bridge as you wait for the psycho assassins/police to leave.

3) While you commute. If you have to work ten or more minutes away from your house, it's a great chance to read something. Bring a book along on the bus, and if you're driving then bring an audiobook and play it over your speakers. (Please don't try to read and drive at the same time. I beg you.)

4) While slaying dragons. Obviously, please do not attempt to slay the dragon and read at the exact same time, because that, my friend, will end with you getting barbecued. However, slaying a dragon always seems to involve traveling long distances with a band of misfits and telling stories by the fire underneath the stars. Being a bookworm, I give you full permission to ignore said band of misfits and read by the fire instead of listening to their boring stories you've heard a million times. (You're welcome.)

5) During lunch breaks. I understand that eating and reading don't always mix (and I have ketchup stains on my books to prove it), but it's worth a shot. Like I've said before, ignore all the other people in your life and just read something, darn it! Hide in your school library or storage closet if you have to.

How do you find time to read? 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sequel Review: "Beneath the Forsaken City"

I've done my best to keep this review spoiler-free. If you're looking for the first book in the series, you can check out my review of Oath of the Brotherhood. I'll have a fresh series next Friday!

The Short:

Beneath the Forsaken City
The Song of Seare, Book 2

By: C.E. Laureano

4/5 Stars

What: Conor and Aine struggle to return Seare to normal when personal tragedies strike and spiritual warfare increases.

Recommended to those who like: Darker books, fantasy, sword fights, Christian, romance

The Long:

You might be able to jump into this book without reading Oath of the Brotherhood, but it would be difficult.

Like Oath of the Brotherhood, this book is very dark. I would recommend it to mature teens and up. It deals with spiritual warfare and sexual temptation in a realistic manner.

As with the previous book, Beneath the Forsaken City was just a little too heavy on the romance for my personal taste, though others may enjoy it.

There were some aspects of the story that I really enjoyed, however. One of the themes of the book is how to rely on God in difficult times, as well as the dangers of pride and thinking one knows better than God. Some people might find the book too spiritually strong/ forthright in nature, but I thought it was necessary to offset some of the darker themes of the book.

I definitely look forward to reading Book 3—there was an unexpected plot twist at the end of this book. I’m looking forward to how it all works out in the end.

Out of a “typical” trilogy, do you tend to like the first, second, or third book the best?

I will be slow to respond to comments/ emails for the next several days. Be sure to stop back in on Tuesday for a guest post from Victoria of The Endless Oceans of My Mind. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reality, Meet Fiction: Humans and Animals


People place different values on various animals in different cultures. For example, Hindus hold cows as sacred. Other groups, such as Jews and Muslims, believe that pigs and certain other animals are "unclean" and should not be touched or consumed.

Some cultures consume horses, guinea pigs, or dogs, but people in other cultures that have these animals as pets might find this odd or even offensive.

Even the idea of pets and working animals varies between cultures. Some people rely heavily on animals for working fields, herding other animals, or other duties, while others might see the same animal as a source of company.

Lady, my first dog. She's gotten a bit more gray and she's
half blind, but she still knows where the treats are!


The fictional opportunities presented by this topic are nearly limitless. Do you have "normal" animals in your world? Or are there different creatures than what exist on Earth?

What do different cultures use these animals for? Food? Fiber? Work? Milk? Companionship? Each character will attach different values/uses to individual animals or whole species. How can you use these different values to bring conflict to the story?

What dangers does having/not having an animal pose? How can an animal's skills be used to benefit your characters?

What laws are associated with animals? Are there quarantine rules? Are only certain social classes permitted to own certain types of animals? Could coming into contact with other animals lower your character's social status?

How do animals relate to one another? Predator/prey? If so, are there conflicts between animals?

What are thoughts on keeping animals in captivity? Do you have zoos? Do people object to zoos on a moral basis?

How intelligent are your fictional animals? Do they have certain powers or abilities that make them useful? What makes an animal socially acceptable? Are some revered for abilities they have?

As always, I hope that provided you with some good food for thought. Do you have any pets or favorite animals?

Starting tomorrow, I will be taking a much needed vacation, so I will be slow to respond to comments and emails. Posting will continue as normal and I would still love to hear from you!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Shock of Night"

The Short:

The Shock of Night
The Darkwater Saga, Book 1

By: Patrick W. Carr

5/5 Stars

What: A medieval murder investigator is granted the supernatural gift to see what’s inside people—but it comes at a price.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Christian, darker stories, suspense.

The Long:

Mr. Carr has not disappointed me with a book yet! This one didn’t resonate with me in quite the same way as The Staff and the Sword series, but I would still highly recommend it to fantasy fans looking for something fresh.

Willet Dura was recently elevated to the nobility, but it’s only served to make him more enemies. Although ungifted, he has a knack for getting to the bottom of murders.

That all changes with the scream of a dying man. Now, he lives with the memories of everyone he touches. On top of it, an arcane group seeks his allegiance, various nobles are breathing out death threats, and the evil influence of the Darkwater Forest seems to be growing.

The resulting tale weaves together suspense and fantasy for an intense read.  I would recommend the book for teens and up due to violence and mention of women of ill repute.

The Christian message is loose, but well-executed in the book. It gives some interesting food for thought without being preachy.

The novel also has a prequel novella, By Divine Right, which is free in many ebook formats. Reading the novella does give you some more information on Willet and makes it easier to understand the “gifts” that are so central to the story. It might be worth the read if you're unsure of the series; however, you could easily jump into The Shock of Night first.

The Bottom Line: The Shock of Night is a suitable read for fantasy fans (teen and up) who enjoy a more suspenseful read.

Looking for more books by Patrick W. Carr? I'd highly recommend The Staff and the Sword series. The first book is A Cast of Stones

Which author have you most recently added to your “favorites” list?


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cover Reveal: "A Time to Rise"

It's my pleasure to partake in a first for the blog: a cover reveal!

And I couldn't think of a better series to do it for than for the Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes!

A Time to Rise will be the third book in this dystopian series. The books are centered in a world where everyone is given a clock that tells them the exact time of their death. Parvin knows she doesn't have much time left, but she hopes to make a difference in her final days.

Book One:

You can read a review of A Time to Die here.

Book Two:

You can read my review of A Time to Speak here.
(Review contains spoilers for A Time to Die. Proceed with caution.)

And, finally, A Time to Rise, which releases October 14th!
Was having to scroll down the page suspenseful enough?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Author Interview with Kerry Nietz

Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits, first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates's minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He is the author of several award-winning novels, including A Star Curiously Singing, Freeheads, and Amish Vampires in Space.

Mr. Nietz has recently released a new book, Frayed, which is the first book in The DarkTrench Shadow series. Be sure to check it out!

You've been both independently and traditionally published. What do you like about each approach? What makes each difficult?

There are two benefits of traditional publishing: The publisher pays for the production of the book, and helps with marketing it. He/she may also pay the writer something up front, an advance, but those are becoming scarcer and scarcer today.

For that expense, the publisher has the rights to the book for a period of time (years) and makes a portion of the profit. (At least half, but often more.) They have control over every aspect of the book. Everything from vetoing rights of the book’s content, to picking the cover and title. They also set the schedule—which means the writer has to live by it.

As an independent you get control over everything. Cover art, who to hire as an editor, schedule...everything. Sometimes that can be overwhelming. Plus, the cost is all yours to bear. Parts of the process can get pricy, though much of that cost has gone down over the last ten years. (You could easily publish an eBook for a few hundred dollars, depending on how much of the process you’re willing to do on your own. Unless you’re a stellar artist, don’t do the cover on your own.)

I’ve been fully independent for a few months now, but I’ve independently published books for years. For me, it is hard to imagine going the traditional route again. It would have to be a really good deal. Yes, it can be painful to pay for everything, and make all the decisions. But one of the reasons to have a traditional publisher—help in marketing, has become less and less a benefit. Unless you’re a big name author you can’t expect a publisher to spend much time trying to sell your book. He/she is more concerned about marketing those books that are an easy sell. Those by big name authors. And just as the cost of producing books has come down, marketing on your own is easier too.

Unless your name is Stephen King, there are few reasons to go the traditional route today. And even he publishes independently now too.

How would you say that your career in the software industry has shaped your writing? What other parts of "everyday life" shape your ideas?

My software background influenced the DarkTrench books quite a bit, because the heroes are primarily programmers. Yes, they are called “debuggers” and fix robots in a world 500 years in the future, but they’re coders. They solve problems, they’re really smart, and they’re a little socially awkward. Outcasts, almost.

Along with that, there are fundamental similarities between writing code and writing stories. They both involve the manipulation of ideas. Controlling blocks of text and sometimes moving them around—cutting and pasting and refining. Many, many similarities.

Everyday life sneaks into my stories all the time. Basic human interactions, funny circumstances and is all story material. Plus, I like to learn how things work. Even though I write science fiction, I like to base it on as much reality as I can. Real astronomy, biology, culture, sociology, etc. That’s what makes the story believable. Like it could happen.

How does your faith influence your writing? Is it ever difficult to incorporate topics of faith?

Faith is an important influence. It certainly colors my outlook on life and writing. The idea that things, no matter how bleak, ultimately work out in the end.

I often have a theme in mind when I start writing a story too—a guiding principle, along with some ideas about the characters and basic plot. That isn’t the same as preparing a sermon, though. I’m not out to preach.

The spiritual aspects of my stories find their way in through the course of the story itself. If the characters seem real, are based on reality, then they encounter real theological questions and ideas. People make decisions based on what they believe every day. Faith is all around us. Why not in stories?
I should mention that writing is a faith walk to me. I never know what is going to show up on the page. Often I’m surprised by it. I start to write each day believing I’m going somewhere, even if I’m not sure where. Somehow I get to the end, and much of what I write daily makes it into the final story. It’s a miracle, really. A God thing that maybe only a writer can understand. But maybe not.

You just released Frayed, the first book in The DarkTrench Shadow series, which serves as a parallel/ companion series to The DarkTrench Saga. What part of The Dark Trench Shadow series are you most excited about? Why did you decide to return to SandFly's world?

The Shadow series is intriguing to me because it allows me to explore situations and ideas that were only hinted at in the other books. I don’t want to spoil too much, but in the original DarkTrench series, the main character is off on a big adventure. While he is away, things are still happening—big things—so this series gives me a chance to look at those. Also, I get to hang out with a new debugger character, ThreadBare. He’s interesting and a little insecure. I like him.

I first started messing with ThreadBare while writing flash fiction for a magazine. (Flash fiction is a story that is very short. Usually less than 1000 words.) I wrote this story with this guy who works in a greasy, smelly shop on the edge of a battlefield. A debugger who is forgotten and often afraid. A guy who wants to be something significant. I realized I wanted to know more about him. What was going to happen to him? Was he a hero or not?

Finally, what's your favorite spaceship, real or fictional, and why?

I think my favorite spaceship today is probably Serenity from the show Firefly. It has a real interesting look on the outside, and a lived in and “homey” feel on the inside.

Another favorite is the ship Destiny from the show Stargate Universe. It is gigantic, and filled with lots of unknowns—at least, to the humans that find themselves onboard. There is a lot to wonder and marvel at there. You never know what the next room or hallway might bring.

Science fiction should be a mixture of those two ships. It should be large enough to fill you with wonder, yet still feel familiar. Like home.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. Nietz! 

Be sure to check out his author website and Frayed, his most recent release!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday Fiction Fix: "Merlin"

Although this is the second book in a series, you can easily jump into the series with this book. You can see my review of Taliesin here. 

The Short:

The Pendragon Cycle, Book 2

By: Stephen R. Lawhead

4.5/5 Stars

What: A young man rises to kingship, but he awaits an even greater king.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, loosely Christian, darker stories

The Long:

Although this is book 2 in the Pendragon Cycle, you can definitely hop on board with the series starting with this book. Events of Taliesin are explained well enough to catch you up to date.

I preferred this book to Taliesin. There are still a lot of dark points in the story and I would certainly recommend it for Young Adults and up only. (Brief language, an issue of adult temptation, and a few very violent scenes). However, the Light was much stronger in this book, which I felt offset the darkness nicely.

Merlin has always been a gifted young man, which allows him to quickly rise to a position of prominence. But who will usher in a new age of Britain?

Against powers of Darkness, the Saecsen invasion, and the rising power of Morgian, a few brave souls dare to stand with the Light. Who will prevail?

The spiritual message is strong without being too preachy. It balances nicely with the darker side of the story.

The writing style in this one is a bit different and may lend itself better to being read aloud, rather than silently. Merlin’s voice as the narrator gives the story a unique tone.

The Bottom Line: Recommended to mature fans of Arthurian legend who are looking for a story of dark vs. light.

What's your favorite King Arthur story?

Special Announcement! Next week's going to be a big week! 

On Tuesday, we welcome Kerry Nietz for an author interview. Mr. Nietz is the author of several books, including A Star Curiously Singing and Amish Vampires in Space.

On Wednesday, there will be a cover reveal for A Time to Rise, the third book in the Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes. Click on the links for my reviews of  books one and two.