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Messages - fireflyz

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Books / Re: The Complete Borders Implosion
« on: August 22, 2011, 11:55:34 AM »
I've never had a good experience with borders and am not surprised.  All of this has me wondering if companies like Borders and B&N were to go out, might it help out the indie stores?  I could see the brick and mortar local stores being able to provide hardcover and limited editions and older paperbacks.  While this would shift a lot of the business to ebooks (which seems to be the trend anyway), it would allow readers to purchase hardcovers if they wanted and allow the indies to thrive.  I don't know that B&N are going anywhere, but it would be interesting to see what develops.

Writing Group / Re: Cons in Europe/UK
« on: August 22, 2011, 11:51:31 AM »
Interesting stuff, definitely is a long process.

Let me know if you do decide to come to Chicago.  After having to sit out both Worldcon and World Fantasy this year, I've decided I'm going to Worldcon next year.  World Fantasy has more on the business end, but I don't feel like going to Toronto.

Books / Re: What are you reading, part 3
« on: August 16, 2011, 12:08:16 PM »
Been awhile in between posts.  My Kindle died and was resurrected this weekend.  It wouldn't turn on, blank screen, etc.  I charged it per Kindle's Customer Support but...nothing.  This morning it randomly turned on so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I haven't even had it a year...granted I've read over 130 books on it, but still.

This past week I read a few non fiction works on the American West.  Unfortunately, there is less good scholarly works on this unique period of history than other times in history.  Tough reading.  I've read quite a few Louis Lamour books...reread as I've read them all.  Good historical fiction.  This novel in my head is going to be a long time in coalescing, but it's getting there.

I'm rereading the Dresden Files.  I've only read them once and they're quick, fun reads so I"m guessing that won't take too long.  Anyone have any reccomendations for some good epic fantasy?  Something along the lines of Sanderson, Jordan, Martin, and Erikson.  I could really go for something along those lines.

Books / Re: What are you reading, part 3
« on: August 04, 2011, 12:02:52 PM »
Just finished Deadline, the second book in Mira Grants's Zombie Trilogy.  There will be spoilers for those who haven't read the first book, but I'll refrain from referencing anything from the second book.  Who starts a series with the second book anyway?

Deadline begins where Feed left off.  We're now in the head of Shaun Mason, Georgia's brother.  I was critical of the character development (or lack thereof) in her last novel.  This novel has character development, but it's external.  Essentially Shaun hears his sister's voice talking to him because he can't deal with reality.  That he was the one who killed her.  This changes his character signficantly, but it's a change that occurred off the pages, in between books.  For the remainder of this book his character will remain essentially the same.

The plot was even better than Feed.  Grant does a good job of providing realistic explanations for the virology behind the zombie virus that's been raging on the planet for over two decades.  I think that's one of the best things about this series, Grant takes it seriously and so the reader must too.  There's a whole new host of characters with their own little quirks, but most of them are just scenery. 

Deadline was a quick, fun read.  It's definitely a page turner.  The issues I have with this book are similar to the last.  There really is no attempt at character development.  Grant has an annoying habit of constantly having Shaun think about punching anyone who reacts to him speaking aloud to the girl in his head.  In the beginning of the book that was fine, but after 500 pages we don't need to hear it again.  The plot is interesting, but again as a mystery novel it leaves much to be desired.  A ton of information is withheld from the reader so it's impossible to know where the book is headed.  That's alright, but I think the book would've been better if she allowed us a clearer picture and developed the suspense more.  As it is, some of the plot movements seem contrived and make little sense.  I will say that I saw the epilogue scene coming a mile away and it should make the next book interesting.

I'm not sure how she's going to wrap everything up in one more book because there's a lot left unexplained.  Both her books clock in just over 600 pages so maybe the third will be larger.  Or maybe she'll extend it past a trilogy.  I know that my reviews have been cricital of Grant, but that's the writer in me.  I'll still read them because sometimes it's alright to read a page turning thriller and let your brain go on autopilot.  And Grant's writing is good.  It's very entertaining.  But this isn't something I'll be thinking of after I close the book and it isn't a series that I'll be dying to reread over and over again.  In this case, what you see is what you get.

Books / Re: What are you reading, part 3
« on: August 02, 2011, 12:02:37 PM »
I've been reading a lot of nonfiction concerning the Old West of America, circa 1860s-1880s.  Research for a potential future novel.  Taking a break from that I read Mira Grant's FEED yesterday.

Feed was promoed on the writing excuses podcast a few weeks ago.  I'd been hearing buzz about it and decided to give it a try.  I'm not a huge zombie fan, but this book goes way beyond your classic zombie yarn.  It tells the story of a small group of bloggers who live in this new post zombie world.  Is this horror?  Yes.  Is this sci fi?  I would again say yes.  Is this fantasy?  You'd be right again.  It was all good.  The prose is well done.  Short, concise sentences in 1st POV.  Crunchy writing is good writing.  You won't fall in love with the prose, but like any good thriller, you won't stumble over it either.  The book takes a break in between chapters to give us excerpts from the characters blogs.  This is really just a way for the author to infodump about the world or the characters.  Having said that, while it was obvious that it was an infodump, I didn't mind.  Why?  Because it was interesting and short.  A few pages of back story interspersed amongst the current narrative doesn't bother me.  This is definitely a good read.  It's also straightforward and quick.  Good for a Saturday afternoon.

  The only issue I have with this novel is that it's completely plot driven.  The only character development is done through the backstories to explain to the reader why the characters are the way they are currently.  The characters don't want to change and they don't.  This becomes an issue because the plot driven concept turns Feed into a mystery whodunnit novel.  And as a mystery Feed fails to deliver.  While following a presidential candidate, someone begins using zombies to try to assassinate the candidate.  This is considered terrorism in this new zombie world.  But there's very little suspense.  There's very little in the way of mystery.  The characters do decide to look around, discovering that a plot to kill the candidate and themselves exists, but the evidence just falls into their lap.  That brings the book down a bit and definitely reduces it's rereadability.

  All in all, Feed is a mundane mystery set against the backdrop of a very, very interesting world.  The writing is good, the characters are interesting, if flat.  To go back to an earlier statement, good for a Saturday afternoon read.

Books / Re: What are you reading, part 3
« on: July 27, 2011, 11:56:30 AM »
Finished Jim Butcher's Ghost Story yesterday.  Haha, the same day it came out.  Did I like it?  :-)

I'll try to keep this spoiler free, but anyone reading the series knows that Harry Dresden was killed at the end of the last book and this book deals with his ghost.  I was a little leery of this plotline because it could come off as cheap.  By this point Dresden is a powerhouse of a wizard and stripping him of his power seemed too easy.  I shouldn't have worried, Butcher handles it well.  While Dresden's power is signficantly diminished and changed in many ways, he's not completely helpless.  Dresden must return to the world of the living to solve his murder or three people he loves will die.  What really sold this book was Dresden's internal realizations.  Instead of being able to go in guns blazing he is forced to think through his actions.  This leads him to realize the consequences of his actions from the last novel.  Good stuff that is well written.  Butcher's plot twists are always good and this one is no different.  True, withholding information from the reader can be cheap, but when the main character is in the dark too it feels genuine.  I'm jealous of his twists.  The only complaint I had was at one point the writing is very confusing due to the characters in the scene (you'll know when you get there).  Minor, but slightly annoying.  All in all, a very good read.

The only bad news?  It's not the longest book in the world and it's a fast read so you'll finish it and be left waiting another year for the next book.  I have to admit, I wish he'd abandon his Codex Alera series and just write Dresden books.  Paranormal fantasy is not my thing, but with Butcher and Dresden, I'll make an exception.

Books / Re: What are you reading, part 3
« on: July 25, 2011, 12:25:17 PM »
  I don't think that it's easier for authors to start a series rather than finish it.  There are many authors that are very prolific and others that are not so much.  Authors are unique just like any other person.  Some are fast writers committed to putting out books at a quick rate.  Others are obsessive perfectionists who would rather take a week to get a thousand words rather than have anything less than their best come out.  And I think sometimes authors bite off more than they can chew and as any creative person knows, that kind of problem crushes creativity.  Is that what happened with GRRM?  I don't know.  I was among those who felt he was taking way too long to put this book out and that he didn't seem to be working hard towards finishing it.  Having seen GOT on HBO and reading Dance, I am feeling more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  We'll see.

Read The Steel Wave and To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara.  You might be familiar with his series on the Civil War.  Gettysburg and Gods and Generals were made into movies.  The Steel Wave follows the Normandy invasion.  It was well done, showing Eisenhower, Patton, Rommel, and a few of the front line grunts including the 82nd AB.  If you're looking for a good introduction to Normandy or just a retelling with life to it, look no further.  To the Last Man is about WWI.  This was amazing.  I am a huge history buff but must confess WWI is my weakpoint.  THe first half of the novel follows the air war.  It features the Bloody Red Baron who shot down 80 planes and the Americans who went to France to fly years before America entered the war.  Shaara tells it like it is and it's bloody for all involved.  Black Jack Pershing and a frontline marine figure heavily into the second half of the book.  I highly reccomend this book.  It might just be my own personal experience, but I think too often WWI is overshadowed by WWII and it deserves to be remembered.  The British sent half a million men across Flanders Field (just one of many such attacks over the years of the war).  THe first day 40,000 soldiers were mowed down.  This was the advent of the machine gun, chemical gas, and old world tactics.  It was horror.  I live in a small town fairly close to some major cities.  My town has about 20k people in it.  I can't imagine what it would look like to see them all die twice over in the course of a single day.  Good read.

Next up?  Butcher's next novel coming out tomorrow!

Books / Re: What are you reading, part 3
« on: July 20, 2011, 12:03:31 PM »
Just finished GRRM's Dance.  For those of you worried about spoilers, the only spoilers I'll post will concern some of the POVs in the book.  GRRM has already said who was (and was not) in the book, but if you'd rather not know don't read any further.  To those that don't want to know anything, but are on the fence about picking it up I would say it's definitely worth your time.  GRRM at his best.

So, years of waiting for this one, was it worth it?  Yes...and no.  I'll explain further on.  A lot of our friends are back but the book mainly focuses on Tyrion, Jon, one of the Greyjoys, and Daenerys.  For those of you who are Arya fans, she makes a brief appearance (one of my favorite plot lines of the series).  The prologue seemed unneccessary to me.  I can sort of see why he included it, but it didn't do the job of a prologue IMO which is to either pull the reader into the maelstrom or else dangle something interesting before their eyes.  Honestly, the first three or four chapters were average and I was worried that GRRM might be losing it.  I shouldn't have worried.  After that I was sucked in and the prose was back to his usual excellence.  There is one plot development that happened in the first quarter of the book that felt like it came out of left field.  I was bothered by it, but decided to hold my ire until I'd finished the book.  By the end the wrinkle was given enough time and information to make it less jarring.  Aside from that, the only thing I'll say is that GRRM had me forgetting what he's famous for:  killing or maiming characters we love.  By the end I was cursing myself for ever forgetting.  Enough said.

So, if it was an excellent book why is it worth picking up, but not?  Well, much like Feast felt like half a book, this too feels like half a book.  I'm sure that if he had tried to hold the release of Feast and Dance until both were completed and released them six months apart the fans would have torn him apart.  But the books would be a much better read IMO if all the plot lines were woven together over the course of two books rather than half a story in one and half in the other.  The Meerneese knot?  I don't know.  I could sort of see a few parts where the going must have been difficult.  I can't comment as I wasn't over GRRM's shoulder for the past five years.  Was it writer's block?  An impossible situation? Laziness/loss of enthusiasm?  We'll never know, but ultimately, the man delivered.  You can't ask for more than that.

The last thing I'll mention is that the number of viewpoints has increased.  With two books left, I'm not sure how he's going to bring this to a satisfying conclusion and still fulfill all the promises he's made to the reader.  Then again, a lot can happen over the course of 2000 pages.  I'm rooting for him.  I really enjoyed this book.  It made me remember why GRRM is considered one of the best modern fantasy writers.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that the next book is only a couple years away.

So if you're on the fence, I reccomend picking it up.  If you haven't read Feast in a long time I'd suggest reading that and moving right into Dance.  I think you'll find it enjoyable and it should satisfy your appetite...for a little while at least.  At the end of the day it IS a great story beautifully written and deserves to be read.

Reading Excuses / Re: Feedback from the Gatekeepers
« on: July 16, 2011, 01:49:45 AM »
Haha, yeah I have avoided Twitter until recently.  I applaud anyone that can blog.  I've tried in the past and I end up petering out after a few weeks of constant posting haha.  That's awesome you got to speak with Brandon.  I met him once at a signing, but I only got to speak with him for a few moments and unfortunately it was more gushing fanboy than author to author.  I did get to speak with Dan for about 15 min at a con and that was more professional though I did gush a little bit about Mr. Monster which he was cool enough to sign.  Self publishing is something to keep an eye on for sure, but I don't see it being viable unless you have special circumstances.  A finished series would definitely help.

@hubay I would definitely be interested in that.  I find for me that writing groups help polish the first few chapters.  I think for beginning writers they can help for the whole book.  After that I think alpha/beta readers are the best.  (haha, which is it alpha or beta?  people say the same names for different things so I never know).  It's easier for me with my current schedule to sit down and read an entire book than to try to critique half a dozen chapters.  A nice thing about an overall critique is that it can help make sure you're fulfilling promises to the reader and broader trends that might be an issue.  Just let me know.

Reading Excuses / Re: Feedback from the Gatekeepers
« on: July 15, 2011, 08:32:12 PM »
  I read your blog today.  Just wanted to say that I thought you raised a number of interesting points regarding self publishing.  I'm still generally against that myself, but there are a lot of arguments in favor of it.  I think the biggest negative is audience.  Who reads self published authors on a consistent basis?  Have there been breakouts?  Yes, but very few and far between.  I guess it's the marketing that is a deal breaker for me.  If there were a way to reach an audience I think it would have the potential to crash large publishers...unfortunately, the reading community seems as averse to change as the writing one is so I'm not sure if that's on the horizon or not.

Reading Excuses / Re: Feedback from the Gatekeepers
« on: July 15, 2011, 12:09:13 PM »
  I've thought about submitting directly to publishers, but have held off for a number of reasons.  I know both Dan and Brandon had offers from TOR before they had agents.  But they made their contacts through cons and even then it was something like 6 months later before they heard back.  Additionally, once they had an offer, they used that as a springboard to secure an agent.  Not a bad strategy at all, but they ultimately ended up where I want to.

I know that Pyr books (Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie publish under them) allows unknown authors to submit directly to them.  You can follow Rene Sears on Twitter as he is their gatekeeper.  I know TOR used to.  Haha six years ago when I started I was convinced I'd submit to TOR (Tom Doherty) and be a star.  Ah, to be young again.  I think TOR might still allow that and Baen books as well.

Here's the issue.  Submitting to a publisher generally takes a lot longer time to get feedback from.  Also, while they do occassionally find the diamond in the rough, agents do serve a purpose and by circumventing the system I believe it's sending a message that you couldn't get an agent so you're trying directly.  I've heard agents say that they don't like to hear about authors submitting to publishers, because if the publisher says no and you get an agent a few weeks later who tries to submit your work they've already rejected it.  I wonder if it's just not agents wanting to protect their 15% haha.  For me, the incredibly low success rate (even lower than getting an agent) is what prevents me from pursuing.

Having said that, I believe if you go to a con and meet with editors you have a much better shot.  Just make sure your manuscript is a good one so you don't waste the opportunity.  I tried to meet up with one of the younger TOR editors at a con, but even stalking her by Twitter I kept missing her, haha.  Also, this is only my experience for the US.  I know Scott Lynch queried Gollancz directly and got started in the UK and he's from the midwest.  So Europe/UK might be compltely different.

Anyway, that's my thinking!  It could definitely be wrong, but that's what I've learned so far.

Reading Excuses / Re: Feedback from the Gatekeepers
« on: July 15, 2011, 01:56:16 AM »
It's been a long time since I've updated this thread.  I've put it off because for a little while the only update I had was bittersweet.  Now I've got some good news to relate, so it will take the edge off so to speak.  Before I get into my current state of trying to break into the publishing industry, I want to apologize for not giving more feedback on the Reading Excuses forum.  Alot of people gave me solid feedback for weeks on end.  I tried to keep up whilst working on my latest project but between a new job, planning a wedding, writing, revising, etc...  Basically life got in the way.  I want to extend an invitation to those that were there for me (Akoebel, Hubay, Asmodean, etc.).  If you'd like me to look at an entire novel via email I would definitely be willing to do that.  I feel that I owe you guys something, if for nothing more than making me feel like what I was doing was worth something.  And that something is starting to pay dividends.  So, standing offer, whenever/if ever, let me know  :)

My last novel was Written in Blood.  I only sent it out to 8 agents.  It received three partial requests and two fulls.  One of the partials turned into a full as well.  Unfortunately, they all passed.  The first few were back when it was 140k and included flashbacks.  The last was after I removed the flashbacks and wove them in, trimming it back to 125k.  The book was much better for those revisions.  The last agent to request a partial and then full was the best of the lot IMO.  She didn't know me at all, but based off of my query she asked for the partial and after that the full.  That gave me a lot of confidence as my previous submissions came after cons.  Unfortunately, she too passedon it in April.  The project wasn't quite right for her.  She did say that both her and the president of her agency thought I had a lot of talent and she asked me to think of her in the future if I wrote anything else.  Definitely bittersweet.  She said I had talent which was good.  She asked to see future work which proved she wasn't just being nice.  But she still didn't want me.

I was at a crossroads at this point.  I'd been shopping Written in Blood around since October and while I had garnered interest from some of the bigger wigs of fantasy, I still hadn't gotten representation.  Written in Blood is epic fantasy and from what i've seen the published authors in that field are either huge or nobodies.  The agents repping them are fewer than one might think.  A lot of agents put fantasy as a genre they're interested in on their websites, but when you look at the authors/titles they sell, most are not epic fantasy.  I still had another half dozen names to hit up.

But I had been toying with a modern YA sci-fi thriller.  Also, I'm a fast writer.  I think I'm talented (but don't we all?).  My ultimate goal is to publish an adult and a YA book in fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk every year.  I'd never written a YA and the challenge appealed to me.  So after receiving the last rejection in April I began work on the YA book.  I wanted to have it finished by the first week of June but as I alluded to life got in the way.  Nonetheless, I was able to finish it the last week of June and get revisions done by the first week of July.  A month late, but still not terrible.  At 95,000 words it's the shortest novel I've written, but in the ballpark for YA. 

Now comes the good news.  I've begun submitting this week.  And already I've received a request for a partial.  The nice thing about YA is that there are a lot more agents out there that rep it.  The caveat for me is that they also have to be willing to represent adult fantasy as that's my first love and I doubt I'll ever tire of it.  I have another dozen or so agents to send this out to.  Once those are out I'm going to send Written in Blood out to the 6 other agents I never got around to.  You might wonder why I waited.  I wouldn't advise anyone else to do that, but for me, when I'm invested in a project it takes all of my attention.  I couldn't try to query WiB and write another novel at the same time.  Now that they're both done, I can get them out there.

I'll be updating my Twitter feed and this thread (much more occassionally than Twitter).  So if you're interested, feel free to follow along.  Just started Twitter, but every Tuesday I'll post a tip of the day that will include something that helped me personally improve my writing.  I'm sure some of it will be old news to those of us that write a lot, but it always bares repeating.  Fridays I'll post book reviews, helpful links, etc.  Otherwise I'll be using it to track my progress.  Who knows, this book might go the way of Written in Blood, but I feel like I"m getting closer and that's all you can hope for.  Get a little closer each time until you finally cross the finish line.  Writing's a marathon, not a sprint.

So there you have it.  I apologize for the long, long post.  But I felt a lot of you deserved an explanation for my extended absence.  If any of you guys are currently submitting or recently did so and have some war stories to share I'd love to hear it. Good luck to everyone else out there, we're all in this together! 

Books / Re: ARC The Alloy of Law
« on: July 15, 2011, 01:26:06 AM »
Thanks for the replies, guys.  I'll let her know to try to get in touch with TOR.  I just remembered last year Brandon posting a link on his site for book store owners to get ARC's for WOK.  I was surprised she got one because she's a rather small store.  Having said that, she's also the only sci-fi/fantasy book store in a college town so that definitely helps.  I'll pass along the info.  Thanks for the quick feedback!

Books / ARC The Alloy of Law
« on: July 13, 2011, 12:13:43 PM »
Hey Peter,
  I was just wondering if book sellers could request ARC for The Alloy for Law?  I'm good friends with mylocal bookstore owner.  I know she was able to get an ARC for Way of Kings and after reading it she ordered copies for her store.  Full disclosure, I was able to read it too :-)  I also bought a hardcover copy from her.  I do that for authors I really like as it supports small bookstores, the author, and the fantasy genre in general.  Besides with Way of Kings you HAVE to buy the hardcover.  The artwork that goes with the story is simply amazing.  Thanks in advance for the information.

Books / Re: Robin Hobb
« on: July 13, 2011, 11:57:30 AM »
I'll echo what the others said.  Farseer trilogy is good, if a bit amateurish.  It's obviously her earliest work, but the story is good.  I was lukewarm on the Liveship trilogy.  Some very interesting characters made me love parts of the book while the rest bored me to tears.  Having said that, you learn alot about the world that comes into play in the Tawny Man trilogy.  That's where Hobb really shines IMO.  Definitely a good read that tugs on the heart strings.

I agree completely with Peter's assessment of Soldier Son.  I bought the first two books together because I loved her earlier work.  I forced myself to finish the first and couldn't bring myself to begin the second.  Unless I hear an outcry from readers that her writing has taken another turn, I won't be picking anything up anytime soon.  Sometimes writes DO change and you never know what you're going to get.  I know people who love her new stuff, but just not for me.

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