Book Review: The Silent Tempest by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Silent Tempest by Michael G. Manning
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Cover and portraits of Michael G. Manning were taken from Amazon or his website for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

Character:  I stand behind my previous assessment regarding Manning’s ability here. The characters in this story are all deep, and their motivations are heartbreakingly sympathetic. I found his relationships here so powerful. This book is truly about a father who would do any horrible thing if it meant extending the lives of his children. I worded that very carefully, and I stand by that clause. This book did a fantastic job of helping the reader spiral downward with Tyrion rather than contemptibly watch him plummet.

5215279Worldbuilding:  One downside to reading this trilogy out of order was a plot twist regarding one of the races in the book. I think those who choose to read it in order (though I’d still stand behind how I read it) will get a bigger thrill out of some of the revelations in this book. The plot weaving in this series is wonderful, and the world just feels like a place one could visit (if he truly hated himself).

Dialogue:  The dialogue in this book is solid.  One of the characters we’ve only seen glimpses of in the first book gets a larger role, and her character brings a certain wit and light to the story that brightens the tale. To have such a huge cast and still give them each a unique voice is no small feat.

Description: I honestly felt like I was there in almost every scene in the book. Weather I was trapped or fighting for my life, Manning has a cinematic voice that makes the reader feel like they’re quietly observing this tragic, dark tale.

Overall: This whole series is one of the best I’ve read in 2017. This particular book was a brilliant second act with equal parts tragedy and triumph. It’s dark, but touching. It’s exciting, but tragic. Those who love dark fantasy should check out all of Manning’s work.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell

Book Review: Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
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This cover image and the image of the author were taken from his Amazon author page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

While doing an Alpha Reading for Sojourn in CaptivityQuintessential Editor recommended this to me because I’d never written in first person before, and I had quite a few kinks to work out.

Conflict and Suspense, was full of tidbits and insights that I found valuable as a writer.

I want to touch on two things that really stood out to me. There’s really a lot to glean from that book, and I honestly recommend it, especially for those working on improving their outlining skills.

Write first. Explain later: I’m a fan of long fiction, and, to be honest, I don’t know how many people abide by this rule AFTER they’re established.  But it’s  still a valid point.  Writers feel like they have to really get their readers to connect with those characters, so they tend to want to draw out a moment or give back story. What that usually ends up becoming is a bunch of exposition that just bogs the story down.  I saw this in practice with my Beta Readers for Sojourn in Captivity.  Most of them liked the story (I may even go so far as to say loved it), but to an email they all said the beginning was too much. I wanted to establish Elele’s relationship with her family, her spoiled upbringing, and her skill with math.  I also wanted to do some world building.  This only served to give my readers a large terminology lesson before the book started moving. I tell my students this many times: The delete key is almost always the answer to your problems.  What’s now the first segment, dives right in. I take the time to explain a few things here or there, but I start the story with the tension and let it build to her confrontation with the recognized god of her alien race.  My editor liked it much better.

That brings me to the second point of discussion I appreciated in Bell’s book.

91hAFbJPSbL._UX250_Happy people in Happy land: That’s what he calls an overdone part of a book. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that segment. What it gave me was food for thought. The entire book is essentially about keeping the tension and conflict going. With no tension or conflict in the beginning (i.e. happy people in happy land), what concern should the reader have for the characters? Why should they keep reading.

Here’s my example:  Do you go for walks? I do. Do you stop randomly and stare at the window of a quite home? I don’t. But what do you tend to do if you hear screaming and shouting? See where I’m going?

I thought about that segment of the book and felt the desire to argue. What I ended up doing was changing my inference.  I wouldn’t say Bell goes so far as to tell you to start off with miserable people in miserable land. Instead, show the scene that’s true to the arc of the character, but make sure you give the readers that insight as to the conflict that represents the burning embers of the inciting incident. If there is tension in the characters’ minds or hearts, make sure the reader can see it.

Let’s go back to those houses. Maybe they aren’t screaming. But maybe you hear a door slam? Maybe, through the window, you catch a glimpse of a woman and a man sitting apart. (I promise I don’t just randomly walk by house windows and peek in.  This really is just a hypothetical example.) The point is you need some sort of disturbance to draw the reader in.

This book has a ton of helpful hints, a few case studies and even an example outline. It’s a great tool to help readers identify how to bring each scene to it’s highest intensity. I recommend this book to new writers looking to understand what keeps readers turning pages. It’s also good for people trying to figure out outlines.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Mountains Rise by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Mountains Rise by Michael G. Manning

Character:  Manning has proven to be a master character developer. Seeing Daniel’s journey begin was a rewarding experience for me. I expected to learn more about Daniel, but the trilogy truly was about all of the characters we meet in this saga. Not all of these characters are good, but they’re all well thought out. Their motivations and limitations are clear. Tyrion was always a heartbreaking character, reading this book brought exactly the sort of clarity I hoped for.

5215279Worldbuilding:  I already knew the world building to this series was great. What I appreciate (and what has me reading the Mageborn series) is for all the dots to connect. This book eases the reader into the magic and species of the realm with patience. What I look for in world building is what I need to know as I need to know it.  This book does that wonderfully (as does the series). I think the character and the overall world building (perhaps the plotting) are what make this series so easy to read through.

Dialogue:  I’m neutral about the dialogue in this book with one exception. While I don’t think the dialogue here was “snappy” or “quick,” it was powerful. There is an element here that requires note. There is a content warning with this book (and the series). Something happens in the beginning that might test some readers or even have some readers turn away. It’s honestly an issue I’m very sensitive about. That said, Manning treated that situation with respect, showing the impact this despicable act can have on not just the ones involved, but by all the ones those people care about. The dialogue and reactions of the character in this issue were done with sympathy. I despise books that use real-world terrible issues just to get a shock out of the audience. Manning didn’t do this. It was an integral part to Daniel’s development and being. You’ll have to read the book to find out more on what “act” I’m speaking of.

Description: Manning’s strength in description is in the sense of touch. A lot of times through this book I could almost feel (sometimes unfortunately so) what was happening to the characters. He’s decent in the other areas of description, but fans of books that make you feel like the characters will like this aspect of the book.

Overall: Manning delivers a world that is both dark and amazing. His story is built on such sadness, tragedy, and betrayal, one can’t help but want to see what happens. It’s heartbreaking to see how things go and to think of how they could have gone if only…

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

Book Review: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland
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This cover image was taken from Amazon for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

I’ve recently started eating more greens thanks to my friend the Quintessential Editor. (I’m pretty sure he recommended this book.) This book was something I read to help me with outlining more.

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development, does a few things that I’m a big fan of.

The first thing I’m a fan of is the case studies. Each arc description is summarized and supported with examples to help illustrate how such a plot plays out in different movies. I should explain that this book is a bit different from what I’d call plotting.

In plotting, you’re marking the key plot points and events in a story. This is so readers see progression in the overall narrative. I’d wanted to improve my development of characters as they progress through the plot points. This novel did that. Weiland breaks down three types of arcs: The positive change arc, the neutral change arc, and the negative change arc. She breaks negative change into three more I can’t recall off the top of my head. The case studies and benchmarks she provides are things I plan to pull out while outlining my next main project and editing whatever I’m working on. I think understanding these types of character arcs is a must for writers. How you feel about them and how you apply those thoughts is as unique as the storyteller in my opinion, but understanding them matters.

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This image and the feature image were pulled from K.M. Weiland’s website for review purposes. As I’m trying to recommend her book, I’m hoping she’ll forgive the use of these images.

Another thing I’d like to highlight is the idea of “The Lie Your Character Believes.”  That resonated with me. I won’t go into it here because 1) I fear copyright and 2) I think authors, especially those who feel they struggle with outlining, should give this book a read. I actually listened to the audio edition, and that was super helpful for a guy like me.

I’m less inclined to be entirely beholden to some of the more rigid benchmarks. Weiland gives specific percentage marks for each point of the story. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I completely disagree, I just don’t know that I’d be that militant about where certain shifts in the story happen. What I will say is those benchmarks are great guides, but stories need a bit of leeway.

What I intend to do with this book and information is weave some of the elements of this book’s character plot points with my plotting.  This should keep the sense of progression my stories have (which I feel are solid) and give me a way to plan the emotional journey of my characters a little more carefully.

Creating Character Arcs is a great outlining tool that provides informative case studies for each type of arc. Authors or aspiring authors should pic this up and add it to their toolbox of story building tools. I’m a fan of “how-to” books that are this simple to understand and through in presentation. I can’t say enough about those case studies!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

A 3-Star Review for Caught

A 3-Star Review for Caught

Greetings all,

caught-front-coverI just wanted to share a bit of good news.  Caught has a new three-star review up on Goodreads. I’m always overjoyed at any review. I say it, and I mean it every time. Please feel free to look here to see the latest opinion on my work.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

It Was Indeed an Awesome Con!

It Was Indeed an Awesome Con!
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This is me speaking at my panel on the pitfalls of self publishing. Photo by Peggy Trujillo.

I’ve had a few days to rest (at least a little), and I think I’ll be back to work in another day or two. It won’t be long at all before my next event, which is Shore Leave. I’ve just learned bout some more opportunities coming my way, so stay tuned for that. With that said, I wanted to give you all a bit more insight as to how AwesomeCon went.

First off, some special thanks.  The first must be my helpers. They get the chance to attend the event and have some fun, but they have to help me sell books and give me periodic breaks. Events like this take a ton out of me as it is, and I wouldn’t be able to do them without help, so I’d like to offer special thanks to Peggy Trujillo and Keith Simmons.   They made it so I could step away when I wanted. They made it so I could attend my panel (more on that later), and they made it possible for me to check a few items off the bucket list (yes, more on that later, too).  A note about Keith, turns out, his cosplay costume was well liked by the AwesomeCon folks. He made their list of favorite costumes.

Next I’d like to thank Andrew Hiller.  He actually joined me at my table this year. Teaming up with him gave me another person to talk to. I’ve read A Halo of Mushrooms, and A Climbing Stock is on my TBR. It was a pleasure working with him, and I want to make sure I say thanks for sending some traffic my way and keeping me company.

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E.A. Copen speaks about self publishing during the first day of AwesomeCon 2017. Photo by Peggy Trujillo. 

Last, but in no way the least, is the new group of friends I made during my panel. I didn’t have anyone to be on my panel with me, and I truly wanted those in attendance to get the most out of the experience. So I approached a group near my table and asked if they’d care to join me.  They call themselves the Awethors, which is a clever name if I do say so myself.  They were a super group of people to meet.  Jeffery Cook, D.R. Perry, and E.A. Copen were fantastic additions to the panel, and they made it a huge success.  I had several people come up to me and tell me they loved it. I owe that success to them.  Thank you all for joining me.

For those interested in the marketing side of things, this is the spot you should be interested in. Jeffery wrote a book called, “Working the Table, An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions.” I can’t wait to dig into that. I brought around 300 business cards, 75 bookmarks and a ton of QR-Code cards I’d made a while back. I should have brought more of the bookmarks and business cards. I ran out of those on the first day, and I think they were effective. All told, I sold about 10 more books than I’ve ever sold. Caught finally gained some traction, and I’m hoping readers start posting reviews soon. I’m also nearly sold out of soft-cover editions of The Journals of Bob Drifter. I’m proud of the fact that I sold enough product to make up the table, gas, new books (sorry, TBR pile), and parking. By any standard, that’s a success. I’ll admit I didn’t reach my super goal, but I’d still call that weekend a success.

Me AwesomeCon 2017I think my favorite part of the event was having people approach me and tell me how much they liked my work. I posted about that earlier, but I can’t say enough what it means to me for people to show their appreciation.  A lot of those conversations gave me some much needed motivation to stay true to my dream and keep at it. It’s amazing to think anyone would take time out of their day to stop by and just say they liked my books. Thank you!

A note on the value of reviews: I had a large number of people who spoke to me about my book. They took a night to think on it and then came back. A lot of them said my reviews on Goodreads  made a convincing argument to try my books. I’d like to thank those who reviewed my books. I’d be ever so grateful to anyone else who’s read my work to do the same. They really do matter. If you hated them or loved them, there is no such thing as a bad review in my eyes.

Me and my signed comic
This puppy is going on the wall in my office (if I ever unpack). 

The convention wasn’t 100 percent business. Last year, I made it a point to meet Summer Glau.  This year I had a chance to meet someone who was fundamental to my dream to become a writer. If I’m being honest, Stan Lee was far too busy to do much more than sign a comic, but this Uncanny X-Men #101 is right up there with my signed copy of The White Dragon. I honestly only need one more autograph to have my own personal Rushmore of authors (ok, look, Tolstoy would be on that list, but I don’t think that’s in the cards). I didn’t pay for the photo or any of the events, but having that signature on my favorite comic ever is really special, and I’m glad I got the chance to do that.

 

It feels weird. This post is under 1,000 words, but I feel like I only scratched the surface. I wish I could talk about every conversation and every cool thing I saw, but there’s just too many. All I can do is say it really was a great time, and I can’t wait for next year!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Some Things for which to be Grateful

Some Things for which to be Grateful
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These two came by to tell me they loved The Journals of Bob Drifter. They also wanted a sequel. While that’s not currently a plan, I did tell them there will be a book they might want to pay close attention to coming in 2019.

I’m spending a few days recovering from a productive, enjoyable, and exhausting AwesomeCon.  I’ll post more about the event later (probably next week). But since I post something every Wednesday and Saturday, I thought I’d share some achievements and milestones with you all.

The first is how successful AwesomeCon was as a whole. I met a lot of new friends. I had several readers approach me (more on that later) to tell me they liked my work, and I sold a solid number of books.  Thus far for yours truly, if I had trouble making back what I paid to have the table. I’m not consistently earning back that money plus a little extra, which I plan to use to order more books for the next event. This would have been enough of a blessing by itself, but my week has only gotten better.

I can say with pride that I now have 300 followers! Raven and Beez was my 300th follower, and I’m always overjoyed when people think enough of my goings on that they let me bombard their WordPress reader with my thoughts. The fact that I’m slowly growing followers is a motivating thing. There’s a lot of perseverance required in this line of work. It’s an evolutionary process, requiring years to build an audience and establish a rapport with true fans.  I’m simply amazed I’ve  come this far, even acknowledging how much farther I have to go.  I want  you all to know how much I appreciate you. I hope my blogs and post are useful and entertaining.

2017-02-23-bob-drifter-coverThe last thing I wanted to share with you all was a very special 5-star review for The Journals of Bob Drifter.  I was at AwesomeCon during a particularly slow hour when a woman approached me to tell me how much she enjoyed the book. Cathey was so emphatic in her praise that I didn’t really know how to react. You always hope for someone to like your work, but before she even posted this review, I genuinely felt how much she loved it. That sort of moment is what makes a lot of late hours and months of bad sales seem worth it. Just coming up and telling me what she thought was a supremely inspirational moment for me. That review just sort of enchanted the euphoria to another level.  Cathey, if you’re reading this, I can’t put into words what that meant to me. I give you my word that I’ll always push myself to tell compelling, powerful stories. I hope to introduce you to characters that are as inspirational as they are emotional.  Thank you.  I make that same promise to all of you.

As happy as I am, I will need a bit more time to recover and get back into routine. I’m still waiting on the editor to get back to me with Sojourn in Captivity and then the second edition of The Journals of Bob Drifter. I’ve started an outline for a short story revolving around Kaitlyn from Caught. I have a very ambitious goal for 2019, and I’ll have to get to work if I want to meet it.  So I’ll rest up a few days and then charge forward.  I want you all to know how much I value your comments, likes and questions. Every email or message I get is precious to me.  Thank you all and thank you for reading.

Matt