Writing Update: The Discovery Draft of Repressed is Done!

Writing Update: The Discovery Draft of Repressed is Done!
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All images are the intellectual property of M.L.S. Weech. Any reuse or distribution without his consent is a violation of copyright law.

I bring tidings of joy to all fans of my work! The discovery draft of my next book is done. I’ve made a few Facebook posts about the project, but now that I have something written, I can talk about the project a little more.

Repressed is a novella featuring Kaitlyn from Caught. It takes place three years after the events in Oneiros Book One. Below isn’t exactly the book blurb, it’s just a quick summary for my wonderful blog followers:

My name is Kaitlyn, and I have superpowers. No really, I’m an empath. About three years ago, I met some people, and well all have powers now. The five of us who survived the day we met, not all of us made it, live together. The thing is, they think that because I’m a teenager, I’m not ready to help them save the world.

* * *

When Kaitlyn decides to protect a new girl from bullies, she gets a taste for using her abilities and secret training like the heroes of the comics that she loves to read. But as she starts to do more, she learns her powers don’t work exactly the way she thought they did.  Things get even worse when she learns that hero work isn’t as easy as the comics make it seem. When hatred and ignorance come to a boil, Kaitlyn has to decide what it really means to be a hero, and her decision puts the lives of three other classmates at risk.

END SUMMARY

caught-front-coverThis isn’t the sequel to Caught.  If you need to position it in your mental timeline, consider it Oneiros 1.5. I wanted to do more (shorter, not short) fiction, and I also needed something to bridge the (even larger) gap between book one and book two in the actual trilogy. That, combined with my love for this character presented me with too many opportunities to pass up.

The biggest opportunity was for me to test myself, which I want to do with every project I take on. You’ve seen my reviews regarding YA novels (Here’s my last one in case you haven’t.) It’s not accurate to say I hate the genera, but I’m certainly not a big fan of some of the overused themes. A part of me felt that if I was going to stand here and talk about how much some of those themes bothered me, why not take a crack at the genre? It would force me to stretch, and resist some of what I think a lot of YA shortcuts. The main issue: the stupidity or ignorance of parents.

I see this too much in YA, and I didn’t want to fall victim to it, especially since four out of the five members of Oneiros are adults. So I took it upon myself to add that challenge to an already interesting plot. As if that weren’t enough, not only do I have to keep Sal and Kira working as loving, attentive parental figures (not to mention Dom, Brandon and Chris, who all have at least some brief appearances in this story), but they’re powerful psychics. That’s a challenge that I think I’ll have to do even more work on in subsequent drafts.

Why do this? Because one of the reasons I love writing is it’s always a challenge. I want this book to make me a better writer, and I want the next book to take me even further. Writing outside of my normal genre (if anyone accuses me of having one yet) does that for me. I don’t have any other plans to write YA in the future, but I still get to practice first person, and it opens the door for more in that world soon.

What does that mean for Oneiros? Well, I just don’t know when to stop. While there’re a few intense moments in Repressed (and even a few Caught easter eggs), this is a YA novel. In my opinion, if your main character is a 16-year-old girl, you’re writing a YA novel. Rather than fight it, I embraced it. My hope is the people who love Caught will appreciate seeing their favorite characters again as a way to tide them over until I finish books two and three. Also, this book sets the stage for one of the major points of conflict in book two. You see, Kira and Sal have very different ideas on how Kaitlyn should be raised. Those issues get touched on here, and they’re explored more in book two. We also get a sense for how truly powerful Kaitlyn is, and what that amount of power costs her.

SomethingAlwaysRemainsWhat’s next? Repressed is about 35,000 words at the moment. It’ll go in a digital drawer for at least two weeks. I like to step away from a project. It gives me time to separate my emotions from a project. I just finished it, and I feel like a genius. The reality is there are some things to work out and typical Matt issues to smooth away. I won’t be idle in that time. I’m hoping to have Sara’s edits on Bob Drifter back, and my main goal is to try and get the second edition out before I do another draft on Repressed. While I wait for that, I’m going to start looking at 1,200, a story about a homeless veteran who’s using his abilities to help other homeless vets keep their sanity, that is until a monster who feeds on magic shows up.  I still, ambitiously, would like to release Repressed, 1,200, Oneiros Book Two and Oneiros Book Three out in 2019. I’ll work on them with Oneiros being the top priority until they’re done. Having this draft done means I have at least one release already locked in for 2019, four to go. (Did I mention I also plan to release a few more novellas? Like I said, I don’t know when to stop.)

I hope my stories keep you all engaged the way my favorite authors keep me clamoring for more of their work. If that’s the case, I hope a post like this lets you know how committed I am to continue entertaining you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

 

Book Review: The Archmage Unbound by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Archmage Unbound by Michael G. Manning

Unbound is book three of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.  My review for book two can be found here.

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This image was taken from Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Archmage Unbound, Mordecai has become a powerful figure in politics as well as a powerful mage. That power makes him a threat to those who should appreciate him. When his position and status is pit against his love for his friends and family, Mort has to do something that will change the face of his nation forever.

Character:  This is where the characters stole the show for me. I’d said in other reviews that the driving force behind reading this saga was to see bits of how Embers of Illeniel connects.  While Mort and Penny were engaging characters, this is where I truly felt a connection to them. Rose and Dorian are equally lovable. Their struggles and their journey drag the reader through a powerful book.

Exposition: This was seamless. Other books in this series can get a little weighty in the data dump category, but this book had the perfect mix of explanation and action.

5215279Worldbuilding:  This isn’t the book where we see the direct connection to Illeniel, but it’s a fine book all by itself. We learn more about archmages and the shining gods. We get introduced to, two pretty cool new characters. We get a sense for what Mort is capable of, and that has some wonderful foreshadowing elements.

Dialogue:  In his previous book, I said Manning found his rhythm, and he only continued to get better. The exchanges in this novel are powerful, snappy, and fun (well, maybe not all at once, but still good.)

Description:  I like the fight scenes the best. I’m a sucker for a good action-packed novel, and this book gives me the detail in a fight that I enjoy. It also provides a nice benchmark where I see what I  must, and my imagination is allowed to do the rest.

Overall:  I know I said the last book was my favorite, but I was wrong. Looking back at my notes and reading what I even posted on GoodreadsI can say with certainty (I promise) this is my favorite. Book 2 was fun and powerful. The last book had a scene or two that made me tear up, but this book is the winner in my opinion. I couldn’t put it down, and it seemed like  every page had something that was just plain cool.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Announcing the July Book Cover of the Month

Announcing the July Book Cover of the Month

Hello everyone,

The July Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. This turned out to be the second-most voted on tournament in the nine-month history of the bracket. It was great to see all that participation, and fun to watch the leads change hand. We had 5,750 votes. I want to offer my thanks to everyone who got involved. We don’t get those kinds of numbers without a lot of people getting involved.

Five different books took the number spot at one point or another in the tournament, but one had the championship spot when the time hit 0:00:00.

The July Book Cover of the Month is…

 

The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

History of how X won.

Hayes received 260 total votes. It actually finished fourth in overall voting, but it won where it needed to (the semifinal and final). He beat The Queen of Swords 26-14 in the Final Four, and he beat The Girl Who Could See 15-8.
July_Cover_CollageThe Girl Who Could See did manage to tie a record. First, she had the most votes in the tournament. Next, she finished as the runner up, which means she is only the second book ever to receive TWO extra chances to become the book cover of the month.

 

That said, Hayes is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.

Amazon blurb.

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

 

This is the 2017 self-published re-release of The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes.

As any warrior will tell you; even the best swordsman is one bad day away from a corpse. It’s a lesson Blademaster Jezzet Vel’urn isn’t keen to learn. Chased into the Wilds by a vengeful warlord, Jezzet makes it to the free city of Chade. But instead of sanctuary all she finds is more enemies from her past.

Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart is a witch hunter for the Inquisition on a holy crusade to rid the world of heresy. He’s also something else; expendable. When the God Emperor himself gives Thanquil an impossible task, he knows he has no choice but to venture deep into the Wilds to hunt down a fallen Arbiter.

The Black Thorn is a cheat, a thief, a murderer and worse. He’s best known for the killing of several Arbiters and every town in the Wilds has a WANTED poster with his name on it. Thorn knows it’s often best to lie low and let the dust settle, but some jobs pay too well to pass up.

As their fates converge, Jezzet, Thanquil, and the Black Thorn will need to forge an uneasy alliance in order to face their common enemy.

 

(END BLURB)

As always, I’ve purchased the book and added it to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought Manning’s cover, Howard’s cover, Deyo’s coverJones’s CoverHubert’s Cover,  MacNiven’s cover, and Jon del Arroz’s, and they are also on my TBR. Manning’s review is here.  Howard’s review is here. I finished Deyo’s cover, but I haven’t posted a review yet. (About two weeks away.) Jones’s book is third on my TBR at the moment.

 


Here’s
 Hayes’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I don’t know who the artist is yet, and I’m a bit behind with interviews, but I’ll get back on that soon since I’m nearly done drafting Repressed, a novella featuring Kaitlyn from Caught

The August bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Sept. 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Text: The Element that Makes or Breaks Your Cover Design

Text: The Element that Makes or Breaks Your Cover Design

As July’s Book Cover of the Month comes to a close, I started thinking about what to do for this week’s blog, and decided to share a few insights regarding what to think about when anyone commissions a cover. I’ll probably sprinkle a few of these posts in as the more I think about it, the more I realize there is to talk about. So for this installment, I want to talk about the things that can devastate a cover or make a cover try special.

Text: This is simply critical. I’ve seen so many well drawn illustrations completely ruined by poor typeface, font, and color choices. Most just lump this all into the term font.

What is font? Font is a specific style of characters. This is the complete set of characters for one typeface at one particular type size.  Usually, people mix this up or toss it in with typeface and family, which are different things. Arial 12 is a font. Arial is a typeface. Whatever you want to call it, when designers just slap text onto a design, it can destroy a cover. However, when someone puts a bit of thought into how text can become a visual element, the results can be stunning.

What to think about: Your designer should either be sure to leave negative space to use or consider how to integrate text into the design. As long as they do one of these things, the design should come together.

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This designer was brilliant. The title of the book wasn’t just something the designer threw on the cover, but it became the central design element of the cover. By doing this, you create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

 

 

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The negative space (the space left after the raven) left the designer a location to place text that seemed logical.  The designer took it a step further by placing the letter “A” in the gap between the tail feathers and feet. This term (called grouping) makes  several elements (like letters in a word) feel like a single visual uint.

 

 

Color/Legibility: These two go together in a lot of ways. When it comes to text the typeface you choose and the color you use are the difference between a visual element that stands out and words people can’t see, let alone read. I won’t call out bad covers. I’m not here to belittle anyone.  What I will do is say a few things:
I want to say, “red font never works,” but that absolute (while I tend to lean that way) isn’t denotatively true. What is true is, “dark colors on dark backgrounds are impossible to see.” The characters in the text needs contrast to be seen. Mose designers address this by selecting a color that contrasts with the background in some way. For the love of Gestalt, please don’t:

Ever use drop shadows. Ever use stroke that’s nearly as thick as the width of your text.

Designers (professional designers) see that and immediately recognize the technique as lazy. It looks like the designer choose to just take a ham-handed shortcut rather than simply plan his/her design effectively.

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This text isn’t particularly flashy. Placed in the lower negative space, the letters are distinct. The black text is well chosen against a bright background.

 

 

 
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This typeface is a bit more eye-catching, but notice how it’s embossed and brighter than the dark background. Notice how  neither have drop shadows or glowing edges? There’s a reason for that.

 

 

 

 

I really could go on forever. This post (as I was writing it) has gone from one post, to a few posts, to a series that I’ll play with, probably during BCOTM tournaments. But I think this is enough information for one post. When you higher a cover designer, make text the first thing you talk about. Most illustrators are worth more than you pay them. Placing text poorly or making it distracting feels like an insult to the artists who work so hard to create interesting imagery.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Line of Illeniel by Michael Manning

Book Review: The Line of Illeniel by Michael Manning

Line is book two of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.

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Image taken from Amazon.com for review purpose under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Line of Illeniel, Mordecai is coming to terns with his status as a lord. But the history of wizards in the world has more catches than he was aware. Forced by his king to take a bond that limits his ability and could get the woman he loves killed,  Mort is struggling to find the truth. Is this bond the only think keeping him sane? Are the voices he hears those of a madman’s fraying mental state? Things come to a head when a neighboring kingdom invades. Their insurgency point? Mordecais’ newly retaken family land.

Character:  Mort is good, and Penny really came into her own. Dorian is still my favorite character by far (and he remains so). This book really helps readers connect with these characters. They’re human, but honorable. Smart, but have weaknesses. This book, to me, does the best job of setting the tone for not just the characters, but how they grown through the rest of the saga.

Exposition: Manning balanced this well. In fact, a lot of the scenes that feel like exposition dumps become valuable later in the saga. The aforementioned info dumps are few and far between. Limiting the exposition (despite the amount necessary when writing in first person) makes this feel like a fast-paced story.

5215279Worldbuilding:  While not quite the book I was waiting for, what this book does is start connecting Mageborn with Embers of Illeniel. Manning lets the deep history of his saga trickling into the story gently rather than beating the reader to death with a history lesson. He also lets the world take shape in a lot of ways. What impresses me most about this story is how gently interwoven the magic system and scope of the world are not the plot and dialogue of the story.

Dialogue:  I’m comfortable saying this is Manning’s best, most natural dialogue in the series. It’s witty, without being forced, and engaging, without being overly dramatic. In fact, one of the more dramatic scenes is undercut Ala Joss Whedon by an endearingly funny  moment. Manning’s dialogue isn’t bad, but I think this story is Manning near his best. (Embers is his best work by far in my opinion.)

Description:  This, and his work with character, is Manning’s strength. It takes skill to weave visceral imagery into a plot. Most writers are blocky with their description, making the act of reading a scene feel like a workout before the reward of a plot. Manning doesn’t do that. He gives the details of the story when they’re relevant, and the information is most appropriate.

Overall:  I think this is arguably my favorite book in the Mageborn series. The last book in the series has an argument, but this was the book that made me fall in love with these characters. While The Blacksmith’s Son wasn’t bad, I think this is the book that truly starts the series. The conflict and plots in this story are truly compelling. It kept me reading when I should have been working or sleeping, which is a great compliment for any book.

Thanks for reading

Matt

The July Book Cover of the Month Halfway-Point Update

The July Book Cover of the Month Halfway-Point Update

July_Cover_CollageGreetings all,

With just about seven days left in this month’s bracket, I thought this would be a good chance to update you all on how things have been progressing. This has been a record-setting month in a few ways.

4,918 votes (at the moment) is already enough to make this month’s bracket the second-most voted on bracket in the nine months I’ve been doing this. I thank everyone for their support. It’s always great to see people support their favorite artists and authors.

We’ve had three books hold the lead so far.  Winged Hussars by Mark Wandrey started out in the lead. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss held the lead for a day before A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden took it for a few days. The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson has held the number one spot for the last few days. The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes even held the top spot for about 12 hours. This is a very tight race, and with this format, anyone can win if they get a solid push near the end of the voting time.

51IDNC3FGHLMost Voted on so far: Swanson has the most round wins and the most votes overall with 276 total votes.

Least Voted for: The Light of Burning Shadows by Chris Evans currently has the fewest votes (81). Fans of Evans should rally to help this cover get at least a bit more credit than that.

The Elite 8 is the closest round so far. The top four vote-earners in that round are within eight votes of each other. Swanson is only four votes ahead of Oden in the final four.  So looking at each round of votes, Swason has a pretty solid lead in the first two rounds, but life gets a bit tough after that.

A quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round (like Swanson). The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final.  As an example, 21 people (the most) have voted Winged Hussars all the way to the championship, but that’s not enough because Wandrey can’t make up the 63-vote deficit he has to Swanson in the initial round. The last time I did one of these contests, I was worried because I thought a person could win the championship without winning a round. I had a problem with that. Further study of this bracket and the reports I have access to have put my mind at ease. It’s not as simple as a round by round, but it at least won’t allow a person to snatch a championship with only a few people voting for them. Just remember. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been an amazing tournament to watch thus far, and I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt