Book Review: Flash Point by C.L. Schneider

Book Review: Flash Point by C.L. Schneider

1d9390_4ee81ce131994bb6a2bd27ca1f5088ab~mv2Spoiler Free Summary:  Flash Point is the first book in the Nite Fire saga. Dahlia Nite is a half-dragon shifter who patrols Sentinel City for magical creatures who’ve gotten out of line. If they snack on humans, she’s the one who enforces the diet plan. But when the secrets of the past she thought she’d escaped return, she’ll have to protect humanity from the ghost of her own history.  NOTE: remember, this book just won the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal in the Adult – Fiction – Urban category.

Character:  Strong female characters are so rare in fiction these days, but Dahlia delivers. Schneider’s strength is in her character (and world building), so this isn’t surprising. She does have weak moments, and some of them are even traditional problems women are given in fiction, but that is a sub-plot in a complex story, and not the main crux of a plot that most other authors use far too much. Dahlia is strong, smart, resourceful, and proactive which are all things I love in any character. The biggest problem some authors have when they use female characters is they give them nothing but relationship problems. This character is a woman who is a cop. That character is a woman who is a mage. Dahlia is a bad-ass, half-dragon detective who happens to be a woman. This alone would have made this book stand out, but there’s more. I will say that, unlike her Crown of Stones series, I didn’t necessarily connect to the other characters the way I did with those in Stones. Then again, I didn’t exactly connect with to many people besides Ian in Magic-Price either. I do expect these other characters to continue to grow on me, but they didn’t quite snag my heart the way Dahlia did.

Exposition: As the first book in a series told from first-person, I expected a bit more exposition than I would have liked. Honestly, I got about as much exposition as I thought, but I didn’t get any more, and what I got all connected to the story. Schneider doesn’t overwhelm the reader with too much foreshadowing. There is more going on. This story hits at that, but what the reader sees is what the reader needs to have a sense to this story.

Dialogue:  I’m a bit neutral here. It wasn’t boring or stilted by any means, but it wasn’t overly memorable either. It didn’t have the same punch as her previous work, but holding someone to that high a standard is perhaps unfair. The dialogue is effective, but not crisp.

Description:  What helps Schneider here is her use of intense detail in key moments. My imagination does a ton of work for writers, and when someone beats me over the head with detail, it slows me down and frustrates me. Here, Schneider gives general settings, but hones in on the key parts (Dahlia’s shifting and empathy come to mind first).

Overall:  CONTENT WARNING: There are some steamer scenes here, though none as visceral as those in Crown of Stones. I still think the Mageborn saga (all eras) is my favorite story of the year so far, but I give Flash Point a solid second best book I’ve read in 2017 so far. I can’t remember the last Dresden Files book (when it came out) I read was, but Dahlia stepped in and filled that void quite nicely. I’m confident fans of that series will enjoy this one.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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I’ve Finished the Discovery Draft of a Project I Didn’t Know I was Writing until I Finished it: Anthology Announcement!

I’ve Finished the Discovery Draft of a Project I Didn’t Know I was Writing until I Finished it: Anthology Announcement!

Greetings all,

So I had this plan, where I was going to let Repressed sit and work on The Journals of Bob Drifter 2nd Edition. I was even going to start revising 1,200, mostly because it has just been sitting in my digital file cabinet for years.

light-bulb-1042480_960_720Then I had this idea. That idea was like a hungry 4-year-old. Write me. Write me. Write me now.

That idea hit me two weeks ago, and I typed the words “The End” earlier today.

The story is called “The Worth of Words.” Set in a future version of an alternate (Earth-style) planet. They’ve limited speech so strictly that anyone over the age of 7 must wear a collar similar to those that shock a dog when it barks. People have to pay for the right to speak at all. Excessive gestures and public displays are fined or even punished by death courtesy of the drones that fly around and monitor everything. The main character is a mother, and former monitor (police woman) who has assembled a team to take down the server that controls the entire system. It’s essentially a heist story.

If you were subscribed to my newsletter, you got a secret link to the first 2,000 words or so. (Basically the first chapter). I’d love to know what you thought if you read it.

The next problem that occurred to me was, “What do I do with it?”

Then I did what I always do (and that usually gets me in trouble). I had an idea.

I love anthologies. I’m excited about the Slush Brain anthology, but I want to try my hand at editing one of my own (because I clearly don’t know how to stop loading my metaphorical plate).

So I’m making this announcement:

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All images used in this blog were taken from Pixabay.

I’m publishing an anthology. The title: The Power of Words: Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories Inspired by the First Amendment.

 

Any and all interested authors may submit a short story (20,000 words or less. That 20,000 word limit is hard and fast). It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a NYT best seller or someone who’s never been published. If you’d like to contribute, send me your short story inspired by the First Amendment OR (for those less interested in politically charged themes) the title.

Terms:
I’ll read the entries and select the seven I like best. My intention (though I’m not 100% on how I’ll execute it) is to offer those seven 12% of the royalties for the digital and online sales as well as 100% of whatever they make selling physical editions. (Meaning if they order the book and sell it at a convention, they just keep what they make). Those who I don’t select can still do whatever they want with their work (I mean, it is there’s after all).

I’ll take care of the publishing, editing (PROOFREADING), and cover cost.  I’ll also do an edit personally. Like any edits, they’re recommendations. Each author will retain ultimate say over what they create. Marketing and promotion will be on all the authors (PLEASE don’t rely on me for that stuff…I’m NOT good at it.)

I think those are some pretty fair terms myself. So, if you’re interested, feel free to send me your submissions. I’ll start accepting said submissions Nov. 1, and submissions will close Nov. 30.  Please don’t send anything before or after those dates. I already have one book and two shorts to revise. Not to mention the rest of this trilogy I promised I’d have done by 2019.

I love anthologies. I love the First Amendment. I love writing prompts. So the combination of these things just seemed too right to do any other way. I’m honestly scared. I don’t know who will enter or how to pull this off. I’m a man of ambition and action though. I also tend to accomplish whatever I set my mind to. One must take chances. One must try. I hope to get several great stories. I hope to pull my hair out picking JUST seven more. Whatever happens, I already have one story I’m proud of. So, in a way, I’m playing with house money on that front. It’s possible this anthology might not happen. But it could also be great. I’ll keep you all updated though.

Anyone interested in this is still free to comment below, email me or contact me via social media. I’m excited by this project, and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Sharing the Joy: A Few Friends of Mine Won Some Awards!

Sharing the Joy: A Few Friends of Mine Won Some Awards!

I was surfing the social media waves today when I noticed a few friends of mine have earned some recognition. I love it when people I respect get some props, so what better way to offer my congratulations than to post a brief announcement for them on my humble little blog?

The Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews and Award Contest released their winners.  They give awards in pretty much every category you can shove a book in.

Without further chatter from me, let’s spread the good news.

21192864_10156178007845931_2953333170833284155_nAnaerfell by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd: Winner of the contest’s bronze medal in the Young Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category. Just to point out a humble/not humble fact. Every book I’m about to mention was a book I discovered by it’s cover. Anaerfell was  put in my February Book Cover of the Month and is still one of the most voted on books in the bracket’s history. Joshua and I became friends during that bracket. To put a final touch on the coincidence, Anaerfell is actually next on my TBR list.

21272158_1316997008409745_2922550445147677218_nMagic Price by C.L. Schneider: Winner of the contest’s bronze medal in the Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category. A few years back now (has it really been a few years Cindy?), I was surfing the aforementioned social media waves when I saw the gorgeous cover. I sent a message saying as much.  We got to talking, and I tried her book out. Here’s the review on THAT particular book. That book’s sequel was actually one of the best books I read in 2016. This book’s magic system is flat-out awesome, and Ian is an amazingly sympathetic character. If you check out the reviews, not the content warnings on this. There’s some steamy stuff in there. As if that wasn’t enough, Cindy plucked another medal from the contest!

21230799_1316996651743114_8640255488860905993_nFlash Point by C.L. Schneider: Winner of the contest’s silver medal in the Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Urban category. Flash Point was in my March Book Cover of the Month. I’ve read it. The review is actually scheduled to drop on this blog Wednesday. I didn’t read the book that won this category’s gold medal, but I’d stand behind how well Flash Point did. Flash Point is an urban fantasy with great mystery, action, and dragons. I’ve missed Dresden Files, and Flash Point filled that hole for me. Dahlia is a deeply complex character (a strength of Cindy’s). There are still four months left in the year, but this book is currently on my top three for the year.

These authors are wonderful people, and the books I’ve read are great. I expect Anaerfell to be equally enjoyable. Any time someone I care about gets credit or accomplishes something, I want to leap in the air an pump a fist. This is just blog version of that. If you haven’t tried these books out, add these awards to my firm recommendations.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

The August Book Cover of the Month Tournament has Begun!

The August Book Cover of the Month Tournament has Begun!

August’s bracket has 31 plus The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson which is only the second book ever to get third chance at the title.

We’re doing another “vote all the way through” bracket. I think two weeks is the sweet spot. This gives people time to vote. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The God-Stone War by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The God-Stone War by Michael G. Manning

51cnOJqN3lL._SY346_This is book four of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.  My review for book two can be found here. My review of book three can be found here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The God-Stone War, which takes place seven years after book three, things are looking up for Mordecai. He’s moving forward with plans to unite kingdoms. His dear friend and uncle is king. His children are grown strong. But when a visitor from a neighboring kingdom comes by, things fall apart quickly. Penny, his wife, has a visit from her future self: “If you want any of your children to survive…” What will he do when he learns failure is the guaranteed death of his entire family? When the threat of angry gods comes down, what will he do against it when his powers are then taken from him?

Character:  Penny stole the show again for me here, but Mordecai is the driving force behind the saga and this story. Manning does a great job showing his struggles and emotions without bashing readers over the head with it. The cast of characters here really does a nice job. I’ll talk a bit more about this book (obviously), but these characters are what kept me in the story and turning the pages.

Exposition: Normally a point of strength for Manning, I have to admit the exposition in this book, particularly in the beginning, is super heave on exposition. I found myself grinding through a ton of world building and history. Part of this, I feel, was to cover the seven-year gap between books, but it slowed the book down. Once the book gets running, Mort and his cast once again takes center stage and shine.

Dialogue:  The dialogue here is not only solid, but a charming part of one of the twists in the book. I enjoyed it. I like how Manning uses this to push the plot and develop characters.

Description:  This was also an essential part of this book. This book relies on this element of storytelling, which isn’t my personal bag, but fans of vivid description are going to enjoy this book. I’m unlike most readers and authors in this regard. I tend to like a little less description. Manning usually has a lighter mix, which I like, but what’s important to note is the description in this book is more than usual for him, but not more than usual for most authors.

Overall:  This book was simultaneously what I’d been waiting for and not what I wanted. The last book in this era of the saga brings it all back, but the heavy-handed exposition and more detailed description seemed to take away from what should have been the best book in the series. However, if you skip this book, you’d be making a tragic mistake. The plot twist at the end of this book is brilliant. That, combined with the woven threads of the earlier era of the saga establish this book as a great part of the whole story.

Thanks for reading

Matt

No One but You Wants to Sell Your Book: A Scam Warning

No One but You Wants to Sell Your Book: A Scam Warning

shakedown-1340048_960_720One of the biggest things I feel for early on in my career as an author involves the appearance of help.

What happens is someone from a company calls you.  I was just sitting in my room editing Caught when someone calls.

“Hello, I’m is this M.L.S. Weech?”

I ignored the suspicious accent and rough pronunciation of my name. You see, someone called my author identity. I was finally noticed!

“This is,” I said, feeling my heartbeat race.

I can’t remember what company he claimed to be in, and I don’t want to dime out the other company that fooled me the same way (though that looked far more legitimate than this first company).

Things they say:
“Our research team has tagged your book as one that’s very appealing to our market.”
“I’ve read your book, and I really think there’s a lot going for it.”
“Our reader surveys have identified your book as one that rated very high.”

Other things they say:
“We’re prepared to present your book at ‘insert fake book conference.'”
“We’d like to market your book.”

So, on my infinite list of things I wish I’d known or even just thought of:

  • What self respecting marketing company has to solicit books to market? Seriously, their job is to put brands in front of eyes. Their entire profit margin is based on selling things. People go to them to market a product. They don’t just randomly call people.
  • Anyone who calls asking for your money, isn’t interested in helping you make money.
  • Even if they’re offering to pay X for Y. They’ll eventually get around to asking you for money.

This leads me to last night. I’d already had a fairly unpleasant day. So imagine my mood (those who know me know I’m not one to suffer much in the way of wasting my valuable time) when someone calls.

First warning: They used my real name and not my pen name. I have nothing against my real name. It’s a bit hard to pronounce, which is the reason for the pen name, but I like it. The thing is, this caller didn’t even speak about the author credited for my book.

Second Warning: “I can tell you’re reading out loud.” When this woman called and told me how readers rated it 90-something percent whatever, she started off by saying, “I’m calling about your book….The….Journals of….Bob…Drifter.”  (Clearly she’d done a tone of research on my book. I mean, she worked so hard, she forgot the name of the book she was researching.)

dollar-163473_960_720I tried to be nice:
I’m smarter now than I was a few years back. So I usually have a nice conversation. I’m polite. I get a kick out of these people who want to tell me how great my book could sell, but they can’t even name the main character (the hint is on the cover folks). But, as I mentioned, I was already in a fighting mood. So, the most nice I could have been was to be  frank:

“I’m sorry ma’am, but if you’re calling to offer me services that will cost me any money, I’m not interested. I’d been scammed before, so unless you’re offering me services at absolutely no cost to me, I’m not interested.”

Anyone who knows me knows that was probably the moment this individual should have hung up.  She didn’t.

Don’t worry, Sis, I still wasn’t that bad:
I can get flat out mean on the phone (one of my sisters gets pretty upset at me when I lose my temper on people who waste my time on the phone).  It’s a failing of mine, but this time, because I already knew I was ready to spit rage and discontent in the face of any who dare appear before me, I reminded myself that no one actually deserved said anger.  She went on to carefully avoid using the phrase “no cost to you.”

She said things like, “We’re prepared to do this marketing for you for this amount of time.”  Then she went into her pitch like a bull in my freshly mopped China shop.

I was still pretty direct:
Before she could finish her rather elaborate plan that didn’t include my target audience, my demographic or my local market, I said, “I need to stop you there. The question I asked was, are you doing this at absolutely no expense to me.”

She said, “Like I said, we’re preparing to offer you…”

I said, “Ma’am, I asked you if you’re going to do this at no cost to me. Please answer yes or no.”

safe-913452_960_720This apparently hurt her feelings. She told me she can’t work with me. I’m apparently a negative person.

Honestly, I was, but she was trying to steal my money, so I don’t, exactly, feel guilty about it.

The thing is, my first year I lost $24,000 (that’s not a typo). So be direct.  I found a blog I think really gives you a good way to vet people, but I stand by my original statement:

No one, ever, is going to call you and say, “I want to help you sell your book.”

Well..okay, an Agent may call you, but he’ll know your name and the name of your book, and you’ll have sent him a query.  Same with a publisher.  But no one, ever, is going to call you out of the blue, and suddenly want to sell your book. Spend that money on a marketer you’ve researched, conventions you can attend, or publishing a new book.

Don’t fall for the traps. We in the indie author community support you. Bounce these opportunities off us. Search any company that calls you. Chase your dream, but don’t let others take advantage of that dream.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Book Review: The Unleashed by Bentz Deyo

Book Review: The Unleashed by Bentz Deyo
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This cover was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under fair use doctrine. The other images were taken from Mr. Deyo’s website for the same purpose.

Spoiler Free Summary:  This was the February Book Cover of the Month. I’ve already reviewed the December Book Cover of the Month, which you can find here, and the January Book Cover of the Month, which you can read here. In The Unleashed by Bentz Deyo, Leam Holt has already saved Harbing from destruction, but he begins this story with amnesia and in enemy territory. Trapped between two machinators, Leam is the linch pin for both of their plans. The forces of light work to free Leam, but they want to use him. The forces of darkness want to keep Leam, but they want to use him, too. What will he choose to do if/when his memory returns?

Character:  Leam is a strong lead character. His conflict is honest and real. By the end of the book, I was furious on his behalf for the number of things done to him for the sake of either side’s plans. Leam is earnest, and that earnestness is compelling when he’s being trained and encouraged to do awful things. Those issues get expanded upon when he realizes how terrible his actions really are. I’d also like to mention Eloa, who steals the show from my point of view. She spends a good portion of the story trapped, but she not exactly helpless. Her arch hinges on that situation, and it makes me appreciate her. Gideon, the antagonist, also has in interesting story line that I wanted to learn about.

Exposition: I actually could have used a bit more in this sense. This is the second book in a series, and I think reading the second book took away from the story. I grew to like Leam, but a lot of his arc depends on the reader already knowing what’s happened. That made it hard for me to connect, so if any of this book interests you, I’d strongly recommend buying and reading the first before you move on to this story. I’m of the opinion that doing so will limit questions and issues that I had.

bio-3Worldbuilding:  Despite the fact that I wasn’t really sure who some of these people were and why they mattered, one thing Deyo did do was ease the reader into this world and magic. Where the characters didn’t make much sense early on, the world grew on you, and that made the book a bit easier for me. There were some aspects I wasn’t sure about, but I’m not going to hold the fact that I didn’t read book one against book two.

Dialogue:  The dialogue worked, particularly in regards to developing character. A lot of my connection to these characters formed during conversations. Deyo used this technique with pretty much every character. What made it work is the dialogue didn’t feel like  a forced infodump. Instead, you learned about the characters’ pasts and their personality through genuine, realistic conversations.

Description:  It’s honestly been a while since I read this particular book. I got backed up with reviews and reading, so I’m not sure how fair I’m being to the book in this regard.  What I’ll say is I remember the actions the characters took and how they felt about them. I don’t remember much about what any of the characters looked like or what the settings were like. I remember appreciating the detail in the magic system and some of the intense scenes, but the overall description felt a bit vague in terms of the characters.

Overall:  This story was enjoyable by itself, but I think people would like it more with the context of the first book. Leam’s story was the most compelling part of the book. His arch is emotional, touching, sad, and tragic. I’ll admit this book wasn’t so good that I’d insist on going back and reading the first, but I’m glad I read it. The magic system is cool, and this plot has a nice little cat and mouse sort of “Spy vs Spy” feel that I really enjoyed.

Thanks for reading

Matt