Book Review: Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Book Review: Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Spoiler free summary: Right off the heels of Peace Talks, (my review is here) Battle Ground ramps up the action as the battle for Chicago (and the world) begins. Everything changes in this tragically beautiful, action packed story that amounts to what might be the longest battle sequence in history.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: The character development in this book is much different here. I must give a special nod to Butters. I feel like he stole the show. Molly is interesting here as well. Honestly every character has huge revelations in this book that change the scope. I’m still shocked at the rumor that Dresden is ending since I feel like these books opened so many new doors to explore. I still think Butters and Molly steal the show, though neither has a ton of screen time. I must also give Murph some credit.

Exposition: This might have been too short for a casual reader, but for fans who just wanted to get going, it’s perfect. So the quality of this category probably depends on your familiarity with the series as a whole. I loved it because I didn’t need to read segments of a story that were clearly put there just to fill in people who may not have been familiar with the series.

This image of Jim Butcher was taken from his website (quite some time ago) for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: While there are many revelations in this book, the world building only expands a slight amount. Now that’s a metaphorical crack in the universe (Doctor Who reference), but it’s not in the amount of new data but the magnitude of the data.

Dialogue: This book actually contains a great example of how to use dialogue to develop and reveal character. Now that I think of it, it has a few. So many of the conversations, especially those that happen after the more major (spoiler related) events. If this category is an area in which you want to improve, this is a book that can help.

Description: While I think the same major thoughts apply from my last review, I do think this is better. That perception might be because this book is so much more action oriented. It would make sense, but this book did more for my imagination than its predecessor.

Overall: This book easily competes with the end of the war against the Red Court. It’s that good. I’m heartbroken if there really is only one book. If you can confirm it either way, please do so in the comments below. This story is fantastic, and brings Harry right back to his beloved place.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

Book Review: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
This cover image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: Peace Talks is the sixteenth book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. All the magical powers in the world are holding negotiations to end hostilities, and that’s when Harry’s brother, Thomas, decides to do something stupid. Already caught between four very different and conflicting lives, Harry must navigate these tightropes that can’t coexist. But most people aren’t even remotely interested in peace. One group plans to use this for its own ends.

Character: On one hand, it was just so good to see Harry and Murph and the others, that a part of me just sort of relished having them back. I remember feeling like this book was good to see old friends, but that the story itself didn’t really move for me. However, just having the gang back after I don’t know how long, made me happy. I must also note (and I feel this is the right section to do this) that I sort of consider these two books to be one larger story kindly split in two reasonable chunks. They are absolutely part of one narrative arc. However since both were individual titles, I kept them as separate reviews. I think readers should read both one right after the other to get the right effect.

Exposition: I was a little surprised here because while there is exposition, I actually expected there to be more. It’s be a looooong time since we’ve seen Harry, and I for one didn’t re-read the other books to re-familiarize myself with the plot. There’s really not so much going on that one can’t catch up, but maybe this isn’t the book to start. Honestly, this book (if I understand what I think I understand) is sort of leading up to the very end of the Dresden Files, which I disagree with. There’s so many more directions for this story to go. Hopefully I’m wrong. Regardless, it’s still leading to the end of a conflict that has been building for a few books now. So new readers will, I think, be a bit lost.

This image of Jim Butcher was taken from his website (quite some time ago) for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: Given that this is the sixteenth book, Butcher doesn’t really expand on the world he’s been writing in. Instead, he just uses it as a launching point. This is another reason why it’s not a recommended path for new readers. It’s a solid edition to the series, though not great in and of itself.

Dialogue: Most of my favorite authors have witty dialogue. This is no different. It’s good to hear the banter between characters. It’s every bit as enjoyable as any other. I don’t really know what one would have to do to have “great” dialogue. But good dialogue is that in which the conversations express character at least (if not more than) advance the plot or provide exposition.

Description: If I’m being fair, it’s hard to evaluate something I don’t typically want to think about. I know Harry is tall. I know Murph is short. I know Thomas is handsome. I know Harry’s grandfather is old. So I have what I need to a certain degree. I think Butcher is great with fight description and scene description. But I don’t know that I can see the characters so much. I don’t personally care. I tend to want stories where I can sort of book my own cast. But then I think about Wheel of Time, which got annoying with description, but I can picture those characters in my head. I think writers should consider this and what they want readers to do when they write stories.

Overall: This book is more of a ramp up to the next, and that’s OK. It’s not a great stand alone story. I even remember feeling a bit let down when it came down to it. However, the next book (see my review next week), delivers on the promise this book makes.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Revisions on 1,200 Are Going Slowly

Revisions on 1,200 Are Going Slowly

Greetings all,

Just a bit of an update today. When I sent Discovered out for Alpha Readers, I started on revisions to 1,200. The book really seems to be shaping up in a good way, but they are going slowly. There are two reasons for this.

First, I was a much less mature writer when I wrote 1,200 originally. There are things the book needs just to give it the depth it deserves. That means some additional chapters and a bit more development and (a lot more) description.

That leads to the next issue. Back when I wrote this, I hadn’t started generating character sheets like I do now. So what I’m doing is generating a character sheet each time I encounter a character. That’s really what’s taking so much time. I keep having to stop. But this is worth it. Back in those days, I really leaned into my discovery writing tendencies, which made it easy to type, but don’t help very much when I’m trying to be consistent with (or have any) description. Once I get the bulk of these character sheets generated, the revisions will go by much more quickly.

I’m still a little more than a week out from when I asked Alphas to get Discovered back to me, but I’m nowhere near done with 1,200 yet. I do plan to finish this set of revisions before doing the Alpha Draft of Discovered.

I haven’t heard any good or bad news about Discovered, and that’s fine. I only mention it because I would give you updates if I had any. I tend to leave my Alphas and Betas alone. They don’t get paid or anything, so the least I can do is leave them be. I don’t know that I’ve ever had any be late, so it’s worked.

Once I get through revisions on 1,200, I’ll get back at Discovered, and get that over to my editor for a developmental edit.

I just wanted to give you all an update. I’m working as hard as I can given circumstances, and I will keep you up to date on my progress.

As always, I thank you for your support. It means a lot to me.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 74 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 74 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 74 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, finally, the story comes to an end as Ichigo and Yhwach face off. The story ends, and we learn what the cost of this war was.

Character: Almost nothing. That’s the cost of this war. The anticlimactic ending was undercut further by the magical way characters thought lost (though not all) are back just like that. The losses that stuck had some power, but as much as I like this volume (I swear I do), it’s more because of the ending of the story as a whole than the ending of this particular arc. We see the adults these young men and women come to be. It’s nice to see the heroes come into their own, but we don’t see that climax moment I wish I did.

Exposition: As this is a climax, we don’t need a lot of exposition. Neither do we get a lot. It’s better than most manga, but manga stories have an edge in this category to begin with.

Worldbuilding: This is more like worldclosing than building, but I think it’s relevant. There are new captains named (and old ones returned). The balance is reset, and the resolution is far better than it would have been had they stopped after the Aizen arc. This volume would have been just as good had happened after the Aizen arc.

Dialogue: There was a cool scene at the very end where dialogue reveals not only where one of the main cast is, but how he stays connected to his friends. This is the value of dialogue sometimes, and I think it’s underrated. So this volume is probably stronger than most because there are several scenes like this in this volume.

Description: So usually the description in a manga is weighed by the cool fight scenes, and this was very anticlimactic. I think Bleach painted itself into a corner. At a certain point, when a manga like this just keeps bringing in more and more powerful people, they run out of ideas because, well, “How do you really beat that guy?” When I first read this volume, I switched pages back and forth wondering if I scrolled too quickly (I read this on the Viz app on my phone). I didn’t. So this volume is a fairly good representative of the arc as a whole.

Overall: The very end of this is exactly the ending I wanted. But I sort of feel like I got told the end of a story without getting to see it. An arc that could have had great “heroes coming into their strength” moments just wasn’t there. I will say one of the main cast gets the treatment the whole cast deserves (at least in my opinion), but the rest don’t. However, those last five or so pages were what I was waiting for. While I will admit those pages were worth slogging through two arcs that just weren’t that great (especially on the level of the Aizen arc), I really just recommend you buy the last volume. Every cool think you’ve heard (is probably true), but they’re delivered in dialogue exposition that’s met with a shrug and a, “So is it time to fight now?” I leave the choice to you. I’ll say this ending is outstanding, but it could have been legendary. Instead, the arc drags down an otherwise fantastic saga. I don’t regret reading it, but I wish it met its full potential.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 73 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 73 by Tite Kubo
The cover for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 73 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, finally, Urahara is up against an opponent who pushes him to his limit, and we see his Bankai. Meanwhile, Ichigo finally comes face to face against Yhwach, his final opponent and his terrifying omnipotence.

Character: This volume has a lot of “I’ve always wondered” or “I’ve always wanted to see that” sort of moments. The main cast starts to take center stage, and things begin to align for the overall resolution to the saga. I wouldn’t say this has great development for character, but we do get to see characters sort of come of age. It’s strange because I don’t know how much the characters changed so much as establish who they are at this point. Given all the fan service, I thought it was cool. It wasn’t the best payoff ever, but it was fun.

Exposition: This is probably even less (which is good) than most manga (which is common). This volume has a lot of build up that rewards readers who probably had flights of fancy when the Aizen arc ended. Now a majority of the loose ends are tied up, and we can enjoy the fight.

Worldbuilding: I remember a bit about Urahara’s fight (which actually started in the previous volume), but that’s about it. Like most in this series, the fight wasn’t memorable, and you might argue the Bankai was forgettable (because I forgot it). There are several Bankai in this series (Rukia’s and Kenpachi’s) that were awesome and so visually stunning. So maybe Urahara’s was awesome, especially to those who really loved Urahara. I liked the guy, and I did wonder what his Bankai was like, but whatever it was didn’t have a lasting impact like those others did when revealed.

Dialogue: I’d assume this was stronger. Somewhere in here we learn that there were a list of people Yhwach targeted because of their threat level, and that plays out in the neighborhood of this volume. So this didn’t feel as wooden as other manga volumes could get. The angle with the high threat targets was presented via dialogue in a manner that didn’t feel silly. I’m not really complaining in this aspect because it’s still par for the course in manga, but this volume stands out because it doesn’t conform to that pattern.

Description: Urahara’s fight was one of the better (top ten?) fights of this arc. It wasn’t in the top five, but it had some cool art. Yhwach’s throne room is interesting. The detail of this volume was probably above the series’ norm.

Overall: I think the main fight was overshadowed by another, but I may be getting this volume confused with the one before it or the one after it. While overshadowed by its contemporaries, it’s still fun to read. It might be a tad disappointing because there was one fight that I felt teased about but I didn’t get, but all-in-all, this volume was up there in the rankings.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Alpha Readers Assemble! I Have Finished the First Draft of Discovered!

Alpha Readers Assemble! I Have Finished the First Draft of Discovered!
Betrayed is the second book of the Oneiros Log, and you can read this to get ready for Discovered’s pending release.

Greetings all,

Boy do I love these sorts of posts! I am indeed happy to announce that the First Draft of Discovered is ready for any willing Alpha Readers.

Discovered is the conclusion of the Oneiros Log. I’m incredibly proud of this book and how it ends the series. My hope is Alpha Readers will help make sure that it’s every bit as special to readers as it is to me. There are several new characters to meet, all of whom are quite endearing in their own ways.

If you’re interested in being an Alpha Reader, please email me. Please understand my expectations. First, I would like to have any feedback sent to me by May 15. That gives me time to work on other things (more below) and then get right on the Editorial Draft of Discovered. Second, I’m most concerned with timeline and consistency issues. I’m also particularly concerned with how satisfying the ending is and the arc of the characters. We’re looking for things that don’t add up or don’t feel right.

If that’s you, click that link above.

While I wait, I’ll be working on the First Draft (REDO) of 1,200. I’m more ashamed it’s not already out in the world as I work on it. Yes, it needs work, but this book should have been out years ago. Honestly, I got carried away on Caught an other projects. But it’s time for that book to take center stage, and I’ll be ready for Alpha Readers somewhere around that May 15 date.

I’ll be swapping back and forth between those projects until we get Discovered out the door, and then I finally earn the right to get back to Images of Truth and finish that mammoth project. My hope is to make some headway on a lot of older projects once Oneiros Log is where it needs to be. I’ll also be starting Mercer.

As always, I thank you all for the tremendous support. I truly hope Alpha Readers are pleased with the conclusion to the Oneiros Log.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 72 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 72 by Tite Kubo
The cover for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 72 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Kyoraku is in danger, and Nano comes to help with a new weapon. More importantly Uryu encounters Ichigo.

Character: I don’t remember this volume as well as the previous one, but I remember coming away with a fairly positive feeling regarding Kyoraku (especially) and Nano. Those are two characters I feel got the right amount of screen time and development. The fact that I can’t remember much is sort of a warning sign for me, but I trust my general feeling in this case.

Exposition: I promise I’d remember a story that threw too much exposition my way. So whatever happened, they didn’t bog it down with too much of this.

Worldbuilding: I took a glance at a few pages, which oddly feature Urahara and Yoruichi. That much didn’t ring any bells, but it was clearly a combat chapter. Most of this feels like undercard to me. The worldbuilding is extremely diminished, but that makes sense given how much has been thrown at the reader in previous volumes.

Dialogue: This was probably better in one way (no 1980s cartoon banter), but worse in others. This volume was simply unremarkable in a lot of ways.

Description: Given that this is a volume composed of fight scenes, the art is pretty cool to look at.

Overall: It’s the typical pattern for this sequence. A particularly strong issue is followed up by a bit of a dud. At this point in a series, one would expect a degree of memorability that’s simply not present in this volume. I’m actually a big fan of Urahara, so I would have thought I’d remember it better. That doesn’t mean it’s bad so much as it means it’s not what someone would expect it to be at this point.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Introducing Daniel, A Character From Discovered!

Introducing Daniel, A Character From Discovered!

Greetings all,

I’m very close to finishing the First Draft of Discovered. While I can’t quite put the call out for alpha readers now, I thought I could at least take a moment to introduce you to a character I’m very happy about.

Daniel is an orphan who’s experienced the harsher side of the system. He’s captivated by stories where boys like him turn out to be heroes or princes, but he knows better. He knows no one who thinks like him could be very heroic.

Here are the particulars of Daniel I can share:

Height:  63 inches – 5ā€™3ā€

Weight: 90 pounds

Build:  Lanky. Very thin. Heā€™s homeless and underfed.   

Skin Tone:  Tan

Voice Quality: Quiet.    

Hair Color:  brown

Hair Length:  Long

Hair Style:  Messy. Dirty.   

Eye Color: blue

Eye Shape:  oval. 

Face Shape:  Dimond with a  square jaw. 

Freckles: none

Moles: None

I feel like other information would be too spolierific, so I redacted it. This is the information I use when writing a first draft. I use a character sheet containing this information and more to apply realistic detail to a character in the fist draft. I’m a discovery writer at heart, and I want get the plot moving. I consider it a failing. I account for this in the first draft, where I pointedly go in and add description and look for opportunities to use those to not just show what a character looks like, but how a character thinks.

I think Daniel is wonderful in a lot of ways. He has every excuse to be evil, but he wants so desperately to be good. That dynamic next to other characters really works in my opinion.

I hope this gets you excited to volunteer as an alpha reader for Discovered when I’m ready (man would I love to be ready next week)! We’ll see if I can make that happen. I have two and a half chapters of additional content to write (scenes I realized I needed after reading the previous draft). Once those are done and tidied up, I’ll put out the call.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 71 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 71 by Tite Kubo
This cover image was taken from the manga’s buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 71 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, Nemu gets her time in the limelight. The creation Mayuri mistreats for 70 volumes takes a stand on her own terms, and that might be the last thing she ever does.

Character: It’s nice to see Nemu get her moment. As with the rest of the arc, it feels weird seeing someone shine who maybe had 20 lines in the previous 70 volumes, but it feels less awkward than the previous issue because we’ve seen and interacted with Nemu a few times. This feels appropriate, and that gives me a more positive feeling on this manga.

Exposition: This is mostly conflict, so other than the dialogue, there isn’t much explanation needed. This is just a cool fight with a character who, while not terribly prominent through the series, is at least familiar.

Worldbuilding: This battle is less about expanding the world than it is closing certain loops. As I type this, I realize that this arc may only exist to close loops left open in the Aizen arc. Honestly, that closure is what had me reading at this point, and I did get what I wanted, even if it was buried in volumes of content that wasn’t as great as the answers I was after.

Dialogue: This was par for the course. I will acknowledge this was marginally better. Again, dialogue and character arc rely on familiarity. Here, the conversations had were between characters we’ve been watching interact, so the things said and the reactions to those comments were more meaningful than when the characters are strangers.

Description: The art is still fantastic. The big moves are still well rendered.

Overall: This is one of the volumes I look back on fondly. It gives us some closure in arcs that were left incomplete in the Aizen arc. It’s more meaningful because these characters are more familiar. This one ranks up there against a lot of the others, and it is actually pretty touching.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Marketing Blues: New Rules Causes Some Setbacks

Marketing Blues: New Rules Causes Some Setbacks

Greetings all,

In an earlier blog, I pointed out that AMS has adjusted their rules, prohibiting a book like Caught from being available to make campaigns for. The consequences were unfortunately swift.

In January, I sold three copies of Caught, which was my best-selling book prior to this update.

That total fell to one in February, and I haven’t sold any so far in March.

This means my quota is definitely down.

I still can’t feel too angry about it in a way. First, this isn’t my main job, so it’s not like my family is losing food. Yes, I want to on day let this be my main job, but that may or may not ever happen. It doesn’t keep me from writing and publishing.

This just means I have to increase my efforts in other platforms as well as work on other books. Frankly, it’s been a down time. I’ve only sold six non-Hazel titles in the same 90-day period (including Caught). Without that title to rely on, I have to reassess and move forward.

This is honestly the only real option a guy like me has (I’m certainly not going to quit). If someone has other options, I’d be happy to see them in the comments below.

When I brought down my bids for other titles, I expected a decrease. Losing Caught’s marketing is absolutely a setback, but if I can get my other titles to perform, I could regain that lost ground relatively quickly. I’ll probably do another set of campaigns next month, and that’s all I can really do.

Hazel is still plodding along. She’s easily my number one seller. She’s not making enough for me or Collin to retire on, but she’s earning her keep.

This also doesn’t necessarily mean I’m losing more money. Sure, I’m not selling as many books (and I want to fix that), but I’m not paying as much for all those clicks. Remember, the original goal was to improve my ACOS.

I’m not spending nearly as much on campaigns per month, so when I start analyzing things, I might actually be losing less money. I’ll know more about that when I look at that next month.

This business (at least for me) is a little like running an ultra marathon on a roller-coaster track. You just sort of keep running. I’m making a lot of progress on Discovered, and I’m hopeful to get that out to beta readers sooner rather than later. I have a few more chapters to tweak, and I have to write three or four new chapters just to fill in some gaps. Once that’s done, I’ll be looking for Alpha Readers, and I’ll have my very first completed box set (as soon as I figure out how to make one).

So it’s fun to share the highs, but for this to be useful, it needs to share the mistakes as well as the progress. I’m not helping others if I’m hiding mistakes that you could avoid if I were willing to share them. I hope it helps.

Thanks for reading,

Matt