Dec 13 2012

Is It Me, Or Is Dark Fantasy “Just Getting Lazier”?

Posted by Mathias

In an episode of Family Guy, Peter is listening to the police scanner.  Brian walks in and remarks, upon hearing a crime being reported, by saying, “Is it just me, or is rap music just getting lazier?”

Well, I have come to believe something similar when it comes to what is popularly known as “dark fantasy”.  Dark fantasy is that sort of fantasy where you have an anti-hero with morally questionable motives.  Decades ago, I read The Black Company by Glen Cook.  It’s a great piece of dark fantasy, following a band of anti-heroes (The Black Company) and narrated by an analyst (named Croaker) who has a knack for coming up with really fun, yet bizarre, ways of describing common occurrences and The Company’s exploits. (more…)

Jul 10 2012

The Value Of Multiple Opinions

Posted by Mathias

Lots of writers make a very deadly decision in that they do not get multiple opinions on their work. Instead, they write something and have one trusted source review their work. If they even do that at all. Many authors never seek opinions on what they have written.

The “trusted” source many authors turn to is usually a spouse, girl/boy friend, close friends or some other such person they feel comfortable with. Usually, the result of such forays is a comment like, “It’s great! Don’t change anything!”

If you are one of the lucky ones that actually do get good quality feedback from your single, trusted confidant, you are still short changing yourself. Even if you get comments that point out problems with your prose, plot, character development, etc., getting other opinions doesn’t hurt. (more…)

Jul 01 2012

Don’t Believe The Hype Part 2

Posted by Mathias

This is a follow-up to my post last week titled Don’t Believe The Hype, It Hurts Later.

A friend of mine recently received a plethora of not so kind reviews on his self-published novel. He complained to me that people were just being cruel and hateful and how he feared it would hurt sales of his book. After all, he reasoned, his wife read the story and thought it was excellent. When I asked him who else read the story he informed me, “no one else.” Oh boy.

Comments on his novel included lots of 2 and 3 start reviews. These reviews focused on the high number of misspellings and a lack of character development. Were they really being mean? He assured me that they were and that the complaints sere unfounded. Said friend gave me a free copy to read. I told him if I liked it I would give him a good review. (more…)

May 30 2012

Why Review Groups Are Helpful

Posted by Mathias

A trusted group of people you can use to review what you write is invaluable. Gathering up the feedback from my own group, I compiled the information into a list that has helped immensely during the latest edit of my novel, Under the Darkened Moon.

My review group consisted of a few published authors, some unpublished authors and friends and acquaintances who like to read fantasy fiction. At the end of the last edit here is what I learned based on their feed back:

Strong points:
1 – Characters and character development
2 – Plot
3 – Pacing
4 – The ability to keep the reader guessing

Weak points:
1 – Comma usage
2 – Non main plot elements/background

So this tells me where I needed to focus. Grammar was the big thing. Sentences weren’t horrid, but many of the could definitely been improved. That is what I am focusing on fixing at the moment.

Mar 16 2012

Book Review: Green Rider by Kristen Britain

Posted by Mathias

NOTE: Released in 1998, the first story of Karigan G’ladheon has since spawned three more books with the latest, Blackveil, released in February 2011

Warning: May contain spoilers!

Green Rider is considerably better than the last book I read and reviewed, Vengeance by Ian Irvine. The debut novel by Kristen Britain written more than a decade ago tells the story of Karigan G’ladheon, a runaway school girl who gets caught up in the events of a plot to overthrow the King of Sacoridia. She is pursued by those desperate to keep the conspiracy a secret after making a promise to a dying Green Rider to deliver a message of great importance.

The story bounces between the points of view of several other characters, but Karigan is indeed the main character of the story and most of the focus is on her. Most of the character development of Karigan is through her evasion of danger and getting out of tight spots. There are points in the story where things seemed out of sorts. Unfortunately, one of these points is near the beginning when Karigan stumbles upon the Berry Sisters. The whole encounter seems to have just been placed into the story and dropped out of thin air to land with a thud. The impression I was left with was that the entire chance meeting was a tedious way of discussing some back-story elements, particularly concerning the nature of the world’s magic as well as provide convenient and simplistic ways to help Karigan escape from danger later on. The entire episode left me drained in a manner than was reminiscent of Karigan after using her broach for its power of invisibility. It gave me a good reference point to draw on to sympathize with the main character at those points.

I honestly almost did not push on with reading the story because of this point. But I did. The story gets better as it moves on through a myriad of dangers Karigan faces to complete her quest as well as her struggle with not wanting to be the Green Rider everyone else seems to think she is or should be. The story borders on Karigan escaping from too many unlucky situations however, but it does tread the line just enough to not become wholly unbelievable. Some things like the however Anti-Monarchy Society seem to be just thrown in as filler and are dwelled upon too much for their minor role in my opinion. Also, the story seems to drift a little towards the end, especially during the final battle with the symbolism of a board game that makes its appearance several times throughout the book.  Although there are quiet a few pleasant twists.  Even if some of the foreshaddowing as to where the author wants to go is not all that subtle.

If you want to read a typical coming of age fantasy story with some unique elements and a hero struggling to come to grips with her inescapable fate, Green Rider could be up your alley. The plot is certainly believable enough. I give Green Rider three and a half stars.

Mar 03 2012

Book Review: Vengeance (The Tainted Realm #1) by Ian Irvine

Posted by Mathias

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Note: I am using the Unabridged version for this review.

I want to start off by saying that I give Ian Irvine credit for creating a vast world with some very deep and potentially intriguing history in his book Vengeance. There are certainly a lot of moving parts to the story and the world took a long time to come into complete focus.

However I am not going to mince words beyond that. I was overall disappointed by this novel. It feels like it was rushed to press and not polished in many places.  In other places there was a lot of dwelling on minutia and then an often repeating of it.  The story started out more than all right with the heroine, Tali, watching her mother being murdered. But alas the narrative never regained that opening flare. It tried. It just never succeeded.

Shortly after the start, the story suffered from the introduction of too many characters and the flipping and flopping between their points of view with frequent rewinds past already occurred events. To me it seemed like the entire story tried to accomplish too much, too fast and was scattered. It covered too many characters and faltered in trying to flush them out, not succeeding until very late in the story arc. Character development seemed haphazard and random. The characters themselves, other than Tali, often were very ill defined until long after they were introduced taking simply too long for the characters to fill in. For example, I never felt like Rix was a strong warrior until he and Tobry were in the mountains fighting for their lives well after he was introduced and (pardon the pun which you will get if you read this book) painted strongly as a brooding, artistic type at first. I just think his initial introduction to the story, despite being a key character, was weak. Other characters which were introduced seemed too much along for the ride despite teasing their importance.

By far the character of Tali was the strongest part of this story. But despite her, throughout the book I felt like I was in the middle of a Tuesday night AD&D session. It really did not feel like a story that was happening organically and logically. Rather it seemed as if it were being guided by the invisible hand of a Dungeon Master unwilling to let the characters go off in their natural directions. In my opinion the characters just suddenly realized things too often (flashes out of the blue) which caused them to change course or offered up information that I just found unbelievable to have been realized so suddenly. Also, the constant escaping from harrowing situation after even more harrowing situation after yet another encounter with certain death for all the main characters just drained me by the last third of the book. How many times can people cheat death? I don’t know. But this book certainly tries to find out the answer to that question. Ultimately I never felt that there was any real danger to any of the main character despite being in the middle of a war and their lives constantly, supposedly, based on the words that were put forth by the author, being in jeopardy. Even when Tobry is, once, again, presumed dead at the very end, I as the reader just cannot believe that he is as the novel closes.

As just the first book of The Tainted Realm Trilogy, I am left seriously pondering if book two should be on my reading list when it is slated for release later this year. Thankfully I don’t have to make that decision at this time. However I am inclined to say that I would only pick it up if there is nothing else to read that strikes my fancy when it is indeed released.

I give Ian Irvine’s Vengeance three out of five stars. It was not overly bad, despite its faults. Certainly not among the worst fantasy novels I have ever read. In my opinion however this novel is not for anyone of discriminating tastes in epic fantasy.


Jan 04 2012

X + Y * C Does Not Equal A Good Story

Posted by Mathias

I had, what I consider, one of the most nonsensical discussions with a know-it-all author last night. This author, insists that a good fantasy novel must, and he emphasized the must, follow a very rigid formula.

For example, he said that the opening chapter must have action, the second chapter should be character development, the third chapter was for presenting back story, the fourth chapter had to be back to action … and so on he rambled.

I asked him if he wore a lab coat and mixed his concoctions up in beakers with such a rigid formula for “success”. Still he insisted he was right, despite having just two novels published to his name and neither of which have sold any number of appreciable copies.

How boring it must be to write like this. To lock yourself into such a little box with no room to expand beyond codes that in my opinion do nothing other than force everything one writes to be so similar? That would be boring.

What if, I asked, one’s story was not an “action” fantasy? How would you open with action? He said such things don’t sell. I reminded him, apparently neither does what you write. He got upset and dropped the argument.