Story Review: Am I Alone? by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Am I Alone? by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax from Alien Days Anthology
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Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Am I Alone by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax is the third story in the Alien Days Anthology. Alexis is a security guard in Area 51 until boredom and curiosity cause her to stop roving outside and move inside. What she finds inside will change her life forever.

Character:  Alexis is an OK character. She’s proactive. I think my beef on her is that her proactivity is the only factor to her character that I find memorable. She does a few likable things, but as the sole character in this story (more or less), she doesn’t have any opportunity to demonstrate her character traits very much. As an Odera Chronicles short story, one can imagine we’ll see more of her in future books or anthologies, but we see more happen than we see her do things. 

Exposition: This story flowed well. I felt like it had a good mix of events and backstory. The fact that there are so few characters contributes way more to the slower parts of the story than the exposition, but some will feel the story drag here and there. I just don’t think exposition is to blame.  

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Image of Mr. Truax was taken from his blog post for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: As an origin story, this worked well. The story is a great teaser opening to a larger series of adventures. No, we don’t get a lot of world building, but we do get promises that invoke a desire to read in seek of fulfillment, which is the goal of a story like this in my opinion.  

Dialogue: I have to give this an N/A. There are indeed a few spoken lines in this story, but there just isn’t enough dialogue to evaluate fairly. 

Description:  This was probably one of the stronger aspects of the story. It’s a very visceral, cerebral story. We experience a lot of events that aren’t necessarily character driven. That also contributes to the slower parts of the story, but the description gives it a life that a one-character story can’t bring to itself. Honestly, I think a single person story with very few interactions is a bold writing exercise. I felt that the authors knew that, and made sure to give readers detailed, sensory-evoking scenes to offset the limited character issues. I’m not personally a fan of description, but I can recognize the wisdom in the decision making process. 

JR
Representative image of Mr. Handley was taken from his blog for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.  

Overall: I’m still not positive where I would rank my top three stories in this anthology, but I can say with certainty that this is one of them. I would have loved it as a prologue to a space-fairing adventure story. It’s enough to make me curious, where if I had time or an Audible credit I didn’t know what to do with, I’d give her a chance. However, I’m not actively refreshing my Amazon and Audible accounts to see when this book comes out. It’s a solid story that at least promises better to come. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Alien Days: A Castrum Press Anthology

Alien Days: A Castrum Press Anthology

Greetings all,

41ntTIvrguLI was thinking about what to write about for the blog today and remembered my good friend Corey Truax has a new title available. While I’m still pulling out my hair waiting for his own personal book, he and J.R. Handley worked together again for this new story, which comes in an other anthology. This anthology, Alien Days, is available right now!

Here’s the blurb for the anthology:

Alien Days is a multi-author anthology with thrilling tales of aliens, invasions, artificial intelligence, friendship, deceit and extinction. A combination which makes this collection a must-read for science fiction short story fans.
This anthology features Nebula and Dragon award nominees, Amazon bestsellers and award winners alongside rising stars in the science fiction genre. Let the authors take you on adventures through dystopian worlds and far flung planets that will stretch your imagination… Welcome to Alien Days.

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Image of Truax taken from his website for advertising purposes.

I read Corey and J.R.’s last short story in a previous anthology, and I’m excited to have this one on my own TBR pile. J.R. is also a friend, and I’ve read a number of his books. Corey did a blog about this anthology on his page, so you can check that out here.

I can’t say I’ve read any of the work from the other authors, but that’s why I love anthologies so much. They introduce me to authors, and I almost always come away with another author I enjoy reading. I learned about Peter V. Brett from one anthology. I learned about Jake Bible (who I haven’t read more from but intend to) in another.

Anthologies are a fantastic way to get several great stories and meet authors you might not have otherwise heard about. I invite you all to try this one out. I already have my copy.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Story Review: Luck of the Draw by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax, From For a Few Credits More anthology

Story Review: Luck of the Draw by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax, From For a Few Credits More anthology

510QAdWwRNLSpolier Free Summary: Luck of the Draw  by J.R. Handley and Corey D. Truax is the fifth story in the Four Horsemen anthology, For a Few Credits More.  Ivan Petrov is a shadow of the man he was, and the man he was wasn’t much to begin with. Drunk, in debt, and in trouble with loan sharks, his life takes a turn when his association with said loan sharks makes him the perfect tool for Boudicca, a bounty hunter tracking a much bigger fish than a simple bookie. But Ivan’s trial in this new bounty hunter mission may just be the first step to his path to redemption.

NOTE: Corey and J.R. are both friends. I was also honored to be a beta reader for this project. These facts do not change my honest opinions of their work.

Character:  Ivan and Boudicca are solid characters. Ivan’s arc is the more interesting of the two. Ivan carries the story. His trial for forsaken to self-actualized is a great one. He’s witty, but he has flaws that both frustrate and charm.

JR
Image from J.R. Handley’s social media profile for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

 

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Image of Corey D. Truax from his blog for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Description: Heavy scifi fans would probably want more, but I was more than satisfied with the visualization of this story.  The movie theater in my head was more than happy with the descriptive beats and use of senses. Lots of stories focus on visuals and ignore the other senses. This story gives a sense of touch and sound as well.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Operation Breakout by J.R. Handley

Book Review: Operation Breakout by J.R. Handley

51F3YWT1fvLSpoiler Free Summary: Operation Breakout byJ.R. Handley  is the third book in The Sleeping Legion series. I’ve read the others. Here’s the review for book one, and here’s the review for book two.

The Human Legion is still putting the pieces together following a crippling betrayal, but they’re fighting back. They’re working to take the continent while keeping a hold on their fragile, newly-formed union.

Character: I got frustrated with Lance’s arc in this. He’s still pretty much a badass, and it’s not so much the challenges he faced that bothered me; it was more the way he handled those challenges emotionally. Again, this book is great for readers who like fast-paced action, but there are too many characters in too few pages for me to keep straight. I have a few that I liked, but they didn’t get the air time I wanted. Honestly, these books always feel like they need to be another hundred thousand words or so to justify the number of points of view. It’s more of a lost opportunity than anything else, but it’s been my gripe on the series from book one.

 

Exposition: Three books in, I expected this to get better, and it did. I didn’t feel much in the way of info dumping. I think Handley improved his description and dialogue to reduce the amount of “telling” vs “showing.”

Description:  Handley took another step forward in this. It wasn’t so much the amount, but the placement I noticed. I found the world more inviting because I could see what I needed to see when I needed to see it. It’s fun watching a new writer develop like that. Each book was better than the last.

Overall: While it didn’t have some of the arc I wanted from book two, it had what the others have. If you like scifi action at a fast pace, this book won’t disappoint. There’s more development here than in the first two, but readers will have to keep their eyes sharp to keep track of which character is where. Quick reads like this do help to break up the monotony and rest the eye from some of the thicker tomes I usually read. This had more action that the others (a huge plus). The fight scenes were particularly fun. If you like his work, you’ll like this book.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The April Book Cover of the Month Bracket Begins!

The April Book Cover of the Month Bracket Begins!

APRIL_Cover_CollageApril’s bracket has 30 new covers.  Age of Myth is fighting more than I’ve ever seen a cover fight. Michael J. Sullivan finished with the top most votes in the semifinals, which earned him yet another shot in this month’s bracket. Frank Dorrian’s To Brave the End was last month’s runner up, so he gets another crack at the bracket as well.

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, I feel the need to let’s remember some basic guidelines.  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.

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Since we’ve been going, I’ve been evaluating how the participation has been. A few authors mentioned that it can be pretty exhausting having a 22-day-long tournament.  So I’m going to try a few new things.  This month, I’m simply trying to reduce the amount of time in the tournament.  This torment will run from today to the 14th.  I’ll do something different next mont.  I’d like your thoughts and feedback as to which way is best.  My goal is to have a fun, honest, meaningful competition that helps everyone. Your feedback will make that possible.

Round 1 will go from today to May 4.

The Sweet 16 will run from then to the 7th.

The Elite 8 will take it from there until the 10th.

The Final 4 runs from the 18th to the 12.

The Finals will go from the 20th to the 14.

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

The Bad Guys: The Different Types of Villains

The Bad Guys: The Different Types of Villains

vader-2023850_960_720I was jumping around the Blogverse (if that’s not already a common term I’m trademarking it) and found J.R. Handley’s blog about Villains.  That got me to thinking about the “types” of villains.

This isn’t to be confused with conflict, which Quintessential Editor covered so well in this blog. Villains are a source of conflict, but I’m talking specifically about the different types of villains you see in stories.

I did some jumping around and found this blog from Word Hunter and this blog from Ongoing Worlds blog.

Both have a lot of great information, and they break villains down to a very fine degree.

However, I tend to like things kept simple. Things can be broken down into micro-categories, and one should work to do so. But where the above blogs give you the micro, I thought I’d attempt to offer the major categories of villains. The distinctions I give them are out of my own mind, but may overlap. My goal is to create a smaller list of “broad” terms to describe whatever villain you might be creating. That list can be broken down into either of the lists I mentioned above.

So here we go:

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    This image and all others are copyright free from Pixabay.

    The deity villain:  This isn’t a post about religion. That said, this type of villain deals with any deity be they good, bad, or man-like (the Greek gods were very petty). Any “god-like” or “devil” like character would fall under this category.

This villain has what seems to be absolute power. This villain rarely acts directly. He/she has agents who do his/her bidding. The final conflict between the hero and deity villain don’t always end in direct conflict, but they can.

Stories from this point of view often have a “helper” deity. This usually gives the hero (if he isn’t a god or demigod himself) the required power to delete this evil, thus preventing Deus Ex Machina. Now, some stories have many different villains (the Greek gods were dastardly in some regards, but they weren’t the “main” opponents, just meddlers that made life more complicated for hero and villain alike).  But stories that focus on this villain as a source of conflict are go-to Scifi and Fantasy villains.

Case Study: The Mistborn Trilogy (1st era).  I was going to analyze this more deeply, but it’s just a great series, and if you haven’t read it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. This trilogy meets all the criteria I mentioned above.

Case Study: Lord of the Rings. As I mentioned above, the hero and deity villain don’t have to face off directly.

2)  joker-1822273_960_720The inversive villain:  I did a blog about symbiotic villains recently.  These guys all fall under that category. The sole requirement in this type of villain is that the villain is the equal opposite of the hero.  I did plenty of case studies for this in the blog I just mentioned, but I do want to elaborate a point.

It doesn’t matter how powerful or weak the character is. What matters is the qualities the hero shares are manipulated and skewed through the perception of the villain. Some inversive villains are equally as powerful as the hero, while others are comparatively weaker. This depends on how much the hero’s “power” defines him. Whatever defines the hero also defines the villain, it is the stance on the issue or the application of those defining traits that make the conflict between these villains and their heroes so compelling.

william-shakespeare-67765_960_7203) The betrayed villain: A point of emphasis. Here, the point is betrayal is the nature of this villain. It doesn’t matter if it’s the villain who betrayed or was betrayed. If the cause of this characters negative actions are a direct result of a foreseen “slight” you have a betrayed villain.  Betrayal is a key theme in this conflict and to this character. This villain rises due to a wedge driven between he and the hero. They were friends or family at some point.  Don’t be tempted to throw Magneto in this. Magneto and Charles still care about each other. Neither feels betrayed and they, in fact, often protect each other from perceived “greater” threats. No, Magneto belongs in the inversive villain category.

Case Study:  Iago (my favorite villain of all time).  Iago felt betrayed. The reason for his actions revolve around a promotion he felt he deserved but was instead slighted.    He was able to pull off his plan because of the trust he still feigned through the play.

This is a common theme in this sort of villain. , but it isn’t mandated. In fact, sometimes a   betrayed villain is born, and the hero knowingly creates him. The point is, this villain’s motivation and reason for dastardly deeds is based on a sense of betrayal. I thought about this topic a long time, and couldn’t readily think of a “main” villain of this type in Fantasy or Science Fiction.  So if anyone here more well read than I am knows of a scifi/fantasy villain who falls in this category, please say so in the comments below.

monster-571215_960_7204) The pure evil villain: These are the guys my generation grew up loving to hate. These villains are very common in cartoons. Pick an 80’s cartoon, look at the villain. These guys are falling out of style these days because their motivations are harder to believe. These are the guys who simply exist to be bad. They have no motivation nor cause for their evil deeds. Any villain who is bad, but there’s no identifiable cause of that evil falls into this category.

I’m not so against this type of villain, but my editor and many bloggers talk about them, and most say these types of villains are unsatisfying. That doesn’t stop Hollywood from cranking out villains who fall under this category, but there’s a reason for that. TV and Movie fans have a lesser expectation of depth. Unless you’re sitting down for a 30-minute cartoon, the viewer doesn’t tend to care “why” the villain is doing what he’s doing. To shift your villains out of this category, give him a motivation the reader can identify. I’m personally NOT going to make it a requirement that the reader empathize, but some would argue the requirement. I absolutely agree the reader/viewer must understand a character’s motivation to be promoted out to this category, but I don’t think the reader has to agree or empathize with it.

5) light-saber-1542459_960_720The cause villain: If all you do is give your “pure” evil villain a “cause” this is what you’d get. Here is a villain who has a “reason” for what he’s doing, but that reason can vary. It doesn’t matter here if the reader agrees with the cause. What matters is the reader understands it.

Case Study:  Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars. He wanted order in the Galaxy. He did some awful stuff to see that order delivered, but he did it.  For fans of the series, I have a question you can debate in the comments below.

I was going to create a new category for the power-hungry villain, (which might be where Palpatine goes) but it doesn’t matter that the cause is “more power.” If the villain has a cause, he’s a cause villain.  This is the villain whose primary motivation is the accumulation of (or of more) power.  That means this is where those evil emperors/kings fall under too.  He’d be pretty easy to get a long with if the world would just do what he says and give him what he wants.  You may argue Palpatine goes here, but I’m less convinced. Yes, he wants to rule the galaxy, and that might be the point that wins the argument for you, but did he develop that want for a reason? This is what creates the power-hungry villain subcategory of a cause villain from a power-hungry villain. If the villain’s cause is more power, you’ll see this (specific) version of a cause villain.

Case Study: Sylar from Heroes. His whole purpose is the accumulation of abilities. He still has a cause, but that cause is specifically related to power. Yes, Palpatine and Sylar are cause villains, but their motivations might differ. I’m not wholly bought in on the idea that Palpatine simply wanted “more power.” I’d be very interested to see a debate on the subject in the comments below.

So there it is.  I’m pretty confident I could set any villain in one of the five categories above. The subcategories (power-hungry being so important I felt I had to at least address it) are more about plot and conflict than the motivation for the characters.  Do you have a villain I can’t throw in one of these categories? If so, what category would you give them? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

200 followers!

200 followers!

MLSWeechAs I type this, I currently have 211 followers on WordPress, and that’s just amazing to me. I’ve been on this journey for a little less than two years, and the only way success is possible is with readers who are interested in the content I produce. I’ve made friends, and I’ve become a fan of some of those I follow as well.  So with that in mind, I’d like to pass along that success by talking about a few bloggers I’ve become  a fan of.

Sinister Dark Soul: He has this haunting prose that has the ability to stretch you. Content warning. He goes to places you might not be ready for. The trick is how he eases you into those places. His “Clocktower” series is definitely worth a read.  His prose style makes his posts quick to read.

J.R. HandleyIt’s cool to see people I know become successful. His books The Legion Awakes and Fortress Beta City are doing very well. It’s all the sweeter because my good friend Quintessential Editor edited those books. J.R.’s blog is evolving, and I like where it’s going. It has interviews, world building tips and some marketing advice.

J.J. Azar: J.J. has been one of my biggest supporters of late. His blog has a charm and class that just jumps off the page. He posts update on his projects and even did a Q & A that was fun to watch.

Red String Papercuts: Steve over at that blog has become such a valued mentor to me. His posts on marketing are invaluable. I can’t tell you how helpful they are. Factor in Jessie’s prose and poetry and you have a dynamic site worth visiting.

Rough and Ready Fiction: Jenn Moss is a wonderful person. I read and reviewed her book “The Horned Gate.” Her web serials are fun to read. She also does tarot card posts that are fascinating.

thank-you-1606941_960_720I really could go on all day. I try to visit at least three of these (or a few others) each day, rotating to try and stay up to date (Got to give a shout out to Idiot in Tin Foil). They’re just fantastic and incredibly supportive. I’m grateful to all of you followers. I hope to continue to provide you with posts that motivate, inform, and educate you.

With that said, I’d like to ask your thoughts.  What do you look for most from my posts? What do you want to see more of?

Thanks for reading,

Matt