You Can Go Your Own Way

When Fleetwood Mac wrote about going your own way they were referring to love, but I find there are a lot of places where this idea applies to writing. But here’s a link anyway, because…Fleetwood Mac on a Wednesday.

You Can Go Your Own Way

This subject came to mind this morning as I was scrolling through FB and watching the posts of many writers who stay up until all hours to get their word count in. There are funny comments about staggering around on too little sleep and missing their beds in exchange for word count. And for a moment, I felt bad. I felt like I might be doing it wrong, because I don’t stay up late save on deadlines and other occasions where the book really grabs me and demands a late night write.

Then it occurred to me that I have no reason to feel that way because there is no one path to success, or word count. For me a 10 pm bedtime means I’m capable of being a good mommy (Including being up from 4-5 singing the toddler back to sleep because she dreamed there were spiders in her bed.), and a better wife as the hubby and I get up at 6 so he can head to work. It means my body feels better and works better while fighting fibromyalgia.

So I get my count done in other ways. I’ve worked out a system with the husband for 2-3 nights a week when he watches the child and I write from dinner until bedtime. I ponder stories while we go to the park and weed the garden. I write dialog in my head while I do laundry. And yeah, I take the laptop up with me during bath time and write while the toddler pretends she’s a fish. 15 minutes here. 20 minutes there. Technical writing. Editing. Creative writing. It all gets done. It works and I get the sleep and exercise and family time I need to be a whole person.

Remember the idea of the starving, crazy artist isn’t something to aspire to (except where crazy is the fun kind of crazy, go with me here). So find your own way, but in a way where you take care of the writing and you take care of you and those who are most important to you. The writing will be better for it.

So crank up the Mac and boogie on down, Your Own Way.

League of Utah Writers Spring Conference

One of the funnest part of being a writer is being together with other writers. If you live in the SLC area there is a great conference going on this coming Saturday, April 9, 2016. Sponsored by the League of Utah Writers this Spring conference is a great chance to attend some amazing classes and meet amazing people. And it’s affordable too! I’ll be on the Revision panel in the last hour, so come on by and say Hi!

LUW Spring Workshop flyer

Book Review: Child of the Empire – Michaelbrent Collings

The Sword Chronicles: Child of the EmpireThe Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire by Michaelbrent Collings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

This is a solid 4-4.5 read, a book which is full of adventure, mystery, family and loss.

The over arcing story here is a coming of age of a woman who rise from the gladiatorial pits of her society to find her place in the Empire. She is one of the Gifted, a woman who gains not one, but two families, and continually finds that her world isn’t what she expects it to be.

This is a very powerful story as we follow this very broken girl who wants more than anything to have a place where she belongs. Beyond that she also wants to be someone who is doing what is right and what is right is often not an easy thing to see or know. I wanted Sword to succeed and found it heartbreaking each time that her world shifted and she recreated herself again. I was satisfied by where she ended up, even though the journey is painful and sometimes pretty brutal. There were a few aspects as far as the bigger plot which I’m still not fully certain of, and it’s left a bit open ended as it’s obviously the first in a series.

When I started reading I found the writing style a bit choppy, but that disappeared very quickly in the flow of the narrative which keeps up at a break neck speed all the way along. Very rarely are you given much breathing space and when you are…look out cause it’s usually a quick gasp before things get crazy all over again. I love love the connections between people through the book. There’s some romance, but even more important are the ties of siblings and parents and protectors. The powers are interesting and unique and the technology an odd conglomeration of the modern and the very Medieval, which was mostly fine though there were moments it threw me out of the story.

All in all I’m much looking forward to the next one. There are still a lot of questions left to be answered and ground left to be covered. I want to know what lies beneath the clouds, even as I’m afraid to know the answer…and that’s a good thing.

Content warning: This is prolly a 16+ at least. The language is fairly minor. There is some kissing, mention of prostitution and assault, and abundant violence. Folks die in some pretty awful ways and the story doesn’t shy away from that brutality. It’s not down to each drip of blood and brains or such, but it is present.

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Book Review: Got Luck by Michael Darling

Got LuckGot Luck by Michael Darling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

It’s taken some doing to pull my thoughts together on this book because those thoughts are very polarized. There are some things I really loved, and some complete book throwing offenses (Even if I was reading on a tablet!). So I’ll try to cover some of the highlights and lowlights and leave it to you to decide if you want to give Luck a try.

The highlights:
Miami! It’s nice to see a less common setting for a Urban Fantasy, and fun to see Got driving around with the top down and enjoying a different environment. I can’t complain about his choice of car either. It’s no Batmobile, but it’s much more fun and apparently home to all the 80s music.

A unique Fae mythos and worldbuilding. I really liked the focus on the three realms and the way they interconnect. While I still don’t understand a lot of the rules of the fae they were internally consistent enough that I bought into the world and would be interested in learning more. The magic system made sense though I did have a lot of questions about how far it went and the difference between Eternal magic and Halfling magics which I feel weren’t ever answered. I’m not listing that as a bad because it certainly left a lot of space for future books in the world to explore some of that more thoroughly.

Keeper. While he was maybe a little too convenient a source for answers I loved Keeper as a character. People who produce root beer floats from thin air are awesome.

Internal over all plot consistency. All the pieces fit together and made sense. I wasn’t really shocked by who the bad guys were and where folks fell when the battle lines were drawn, but it made sense within the world of the story and the set up information which was given.

The lowlights:
I very nearly quit reading this book after the first chapter. The self appreciative humor and pop culture references are SO heavy handed and abundant that it’s annoying. It’s not cute, it’s not appealing, and even though it gets better as the book goes that first chapter sets a tone that says Got is a jerk and more of a caricature of the best of the 1930-40s noir and current Urban Fantasy heroes than something unique and clever in his own right.

Which carries into the next point. That problem with character exists through the whole book and across many characters. Got complains all the time about how much lying he has to do, especially to his best friend but at no point does he even consider leveling with the man. Likewise when Got receives a big revelation about his whole life he just kinda nods and shrugs it off. He rarely feels real to me and because of that I have problems buying into him as a character even though I like his place as a plot point and the POTENTIAL of him as a character. Erin the girlfriend is worse. How I wanted to like her. She has a cool job, and for a change she’s the woman who is already in the know about the supernatural and gets to train him! How awesome could that be? Except… Most of the focus on her is tied into how beautiful she is. He says she’s smart but she doesn’t really do that much to prove it. Mostly she shows up in tight dresses and heels and cool make up because she’s a product of her environment and expectations. Then she’s continually put in situations where events and others manipulate her/kidnap her/(view spoiler), and she does nothing except to shrug and go, Well the Fae world is still really backwards when it comes to equality. And even when Got manipulates her she shrugs it off with tears and snuggles. For heaven sakes woman… And don’t get me started on her big secret twist, melodrama for the sake of melodrama with an epilogue of melodrama on top. Most of the other characters, including Nat though it pains me to say so, are very two dimensional. They are given defining characteristics, but they are not characters and they feel tacked on for stuff that Got mostly does himself anyway.

Must Got have ALL the powers? Really?

And lastly… I can see the author wanting Got to use his cool powers and not something as mundane as a gun. Okay, that’s fine. However, the ways used to keep the gun out of play in the hands of an ex military, ex police officer private eye make him look like an idiot. He is not Steph Plum who is afraid of her gun and hides it in the freezer. He has no excuse to consistently have put his firearm someplace stupid. If you have a permit, you’re carrying and you’re comfortable with a weapon you don’t treat it like an after thought.

So all in all it was an okay debut and will appeal to fans of authors like Kevin Herne and Anton Strout as there are a lot of similar beats as far as the humor and pop culture style. There’s some great raw talent and potential here and I’ll be keeping an eye on the author, but I need to see a lot of development if I’m gonna stick with Luck.

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Book Review: Agent of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Agent of the Crown (The Crown of Tremontane #3)Agent of the Crown by Melissa McShane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Crown of Tremontane is one of my favorite series, and like it’s predecessors Agent of the Crown does not disappoint.

Agent of the Crown takes us back to Tremontane and the North family this time in the form of Telaine North Hunter, the daughter of Elspeth North and Owen Hunter, who we saw very briefly as a bouncing baby at the end of Rider of the Crown. Telaine is all grown up now and living a double life as the fashion forward belle of every ball she’s ever attended and as one of her Uncle Jeffery’s spies. This is a really fun set up which drives the character arc of the story as Telaine has to decide whether she’s the Princess, the spy or something in between, and in the long run who does she WANT to be. This arc is deftly combined with a political plot which draws her out of her glittering life and firmly puts Telaine somewhere uncomfortable and that’s a great place for a character to be.

As usual the supporting cast is fantastic from Ben the Blacksmith (who I have a huge crush on) to the return of (view spoiler) in all her snarky glory. While there are a lot of townsfolk which we meet, they are distinct enough that I never just lost the personalities in a sea of names and was as tied up in their successes and failures as I was in Telaine’s bigger job. The villains are suitably terrifying and I felt like I understood the various motives in a way that gelled together nicely.

It was also great to get glimpses of characters we know and love including Imogen, Jeffry and Alison.

It’s interesting to see how far the author has come by this book. While I love the whole series the writing here is stronger and tighter and you can see the growth of the author as well as the world and the people in it.

When you get to the short story at the end… All I can say is have tissues on hand. In the best possible way. I’ve read it three times and it gets me right in the feels…every…time.

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From the Author’s Mouth: Melissa McShane

From the Author’s Mouth is a new feature for the blog interviewing authors, especially ones with up and coming releases. Our first victi…erm…guest is Melissa McShane author of the Crown of Tremontane Series, who is releasing a new book into the wild on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Happy Book Birthday Agent of the Crown.

agent of the crown

From the mouth of the author:

  1. Where did the idea for Agent of the Crown come from?

It’s been almost twenty years since I came up with the kernel of the story that became this book, so I really can’t remember. I think I just had the idea for a princess who was also a spy, who was thrust into an espionage role she wasn’t trained for, and the story grew up around that.

  1. What is the strangest, most bizarre bit of research you had to do for Agent of the Crown?

I don’t know how bizarre it was, but at one point I wanted proof that switching mounts on a long, harrowing ride was not only possible, but common enough to justify Telaine doing it. And I came across an Icelandic tradition of riding with a free herd of remounts that still happens today. They offer tours and everything. One of the best things about writing is learning little facts like that.

  1. Are you secretly a super spy and we just don’t know it?

If I were, I’d hardly reveal that, would I? Now, where did those lock picks go?

  1. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

Research. I get caught up in looking up just one more thing…

  1. When you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

My writing is fueled by Coke and chocolate.

  1. What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I think the best villains are the ones whose evil is personal. Morgan threatening Telaine is frightening to me because he believes his attentions are rooted in love. I rarely scare myself except when I feel I should be more worried about the things I come up with.

  1. Which of your characters was the hardest to write for?

Aunt Weaver/Zara North. I wrote this book before the other Tremontane novels, and her character developed very differently in Servant of the Crown, requiring me to change some of her behavior and attitudes. Keeping her consistent was the hardest part of writing this book.

  1. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. What is your favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I paraphrased one of my favorite lines from Babylon 5 about the kind of conversation that can only end with a gunshot, but was convinced that the person doing the speaking wouldn’t be familiar enough with guns to use that as a metaphor. I’m still sad about it.

  1. What is your worst writing habit, the thing you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Stopping to revise—major revision—while I’m in the process of writing a book. Knowing that I’ve changed my mind about something, or that something I wrote is wrong, eats at me until I just have to stop and fix it. I know it slows me down, but I can’t help myself.

  1. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

Tim Powers. I’m in awe of his ability to blend fact, history, and fiction and make it all seem true.

From the mouth of Telaine (Heroine of Agent of the Crown):

1. Your father is a Ruskalder warrior, right? Did this heritage ever cause you trouble growing up?

I think people always remembered Owen Hunter as the King’s best friend and most loyal supporter rather than as a Ruskalder warrior. Also, he died when I was young, and people generally weren’t horrible enough to taunt me about who he’d been. There were a few of my peers who thought I was a good target for their hatred of the Ruskalder, and I got in some fights when I first came to live at the palace, but that faded over time. Even I forget I’m half Ruskalder sometimes.

2. What’s the best part of living in the palace? Being a Princess can’t be all bad, right?

The food is great, and it’s always there when you want it. And the palace is enormous. There are all sorts of interesting places you can get lost in.

3. It must be fun to be a Deviser. Have you ever encountered something you just couldn’t fix and created something entirely new?

Not entirely something I couldn’t fix, but there was this woman who wanted a sword cane, but didn’t like how they have cases that pop off. I ended up building her an umbrella with a blade concealed in the shaft. She was rather obsessed with hidden blades. But it gave me an idea for putting a magical source in the handle of an umbrella that connected to the ribs and made them heat up for cold days. You never know where inspiration will come from.

4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

I’ve never really thought about it. I’d have to find someone I could tell my secret to, and that seems unlikely. Besides, most of the men I meet are more in love with the Princess, my alter ego, than me. I don’t mind. It’s sort of funny.

5. If I wanted to be an Agent of the Crown where would I start?

Most agents are recruited out of school, but if the Crown doesn’t single you out, the best way is to join the army and specialize in some discipline that makes you stand out. If you know who the spymaster is, you can petition him or her directly, but that doesn’t happen very often because the spymaster is very secretive. And no, I won’t tell you who it is. I fell into espionage when I complained about how boring high society was and Uncle Jeffrey gave me an assignment to keep me occupied. I doubt he thought I’d stick with it. I sort of surprised myself, frankly.

Thank you to Melissa and Telaine!

If you’ve never read any of the Tremontane books the series in order is:

Servant of the Crown

Rider of the Crown

Exile of the Crown (novella)

Agent of the Crown