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Reading books. Reviewing books. Talking books.

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MY ‘TBR’ (To Be Reviewed) Pile

I like to read, no, scratch that; I LOVE to read! From fantasy to thriller, not much is off limits – although I’ve never been one for romance. I also review the books that I’ve read, as a way of sharing my opinions and hearing those of others. Do we like the same book? Yeah? Cool. No? Cool, tell me why.

There’s nothing better than talking to someone who loves the same book or author that you do, and waxing lyrical about that character or this character. It’s awesome! And this is why I get excited about the books I haven’t read yet; I am about to discover a character that I like, or even better, a character that I absolutely hate!

Below is a list of just some of the books I currently have on my ‘TBR’ pile. Let me know if you’ve read any of them yet, and if so, what did you make of them?

Continue reading “MY ‘TBR’ (To Be Reviewed) Pile”

Book Review – Scavenger: A.I. (Sand Divers #2) by Timothy C. Ward

Book Review – Scavenger: A.I. (Sand Divers #2) by Timothy C Ward

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The book blurb;

‘Hundreds of years ago a nanotech virus nearly wiped out humanity. The kernel of that technology has been locked in a buried military and guarded from warlords and tyrants by a class of sentries. Divemaster Rushing Stenson and his wife Star thought their journey underground would lead to the discovery of the ancient city of Danvar. Instead, they resurrected a power perfect for the tyrant that put them there. He plans to use this self replicating technology to rebuild America and give life eternal to those loyal to his empire.’

Continue reading “Book Review – Scavenger: A.I. (Sand Divers #2) by Timothy C. Ward”

Book Review – The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller

Book Review – The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller

The book blurb;

‘Dragons once soared in the skies, but that was before the Transformation, before they took human form. Now, demonic forces stand to obliterate them. When left mortally wounded, Darnuir, the Prince of Dragons, can only be saved through a dangerous rebirthing spell. He is left as a babe in human hands.

Twenty years later, Darnuir is of age to wield the Dragon’s Blade. As the last member of his bloodline, he is the only one who can. He is plunged into a role he is not prepared for, to lead a people he does not know. Shadowy demons ravage his new home and the alliance between humans, dragons and fairies has fractured.

Time is short, for new threats and deadlier enemies are emerging…’

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The book trailer;

The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King tells the story of Darnuir, the prince of the Dragons as he is ‘reborn’ in order to save his life. Darnuir must lead his people in a war against those of ‘the shadow’, demons and spectres controlled by an evil wizard. The dragons must unite with the fairies and with the humans  in order to protect their world.

I will try to avoid the usual cliches when reviewing this book, but keep in mind the phrases ‘unputdownable’, ‘a real page turner’ and others of that ilk.

The Reborn King is a character-driven story of conflict and intrigue. Darnuir in particular is a character that I really enjoyed reading. He is saved with a rebirthing spell that turns him into an infant and he is then raised among the human population. Darnuir becomes a ‘hunter’, a faction of the human military that specialises in tracking and guerrilla-like warfare. the years pass by and we, the readers, are given little snippets of information that are forming Darnuir’s influences and this makes for intriguing reading. When Darnuir is told of his true position, as king of the dragons, the story starts to really pick up pace.

What i liked most about this is the way that Darnuir’s character becomes increasingly conflicted. He is now wielder of the Dragon’s Blade and is guided by his Guardian, Blaine. Through the rubies on his blade, Darnuir can access his old memories (this part of the book is especially brilliant) and this causes a changing in him. Darnuir’s conflict is something that is portrayed excellently and you can feel almost feel his strife as the ‘old’ Darnuir starts to come through.

The races in Tenalp (read it backwards) are plentiful and are of sure, fantasy stock. There are fairies, humans and frost trolls, as well as the dragon’s themselves. The political ties between these races is super interesting and their history if given in snippets but it is fantastic. One of my favourite features of this book is the battle strategies used by the leaders of the races, it is well thought out and actually has some logic to it, and it isn’t there simply for show.

Summary

This is a world that I want to read more of and the characters will keep me coming back for more. The action is delivered with a quick punch and surprise to it, the battles are fast, furious and enormously deadly. The legendary weapons on show are simply magnificent and add a layer of depth to the story (as well as being super cool).

Recommendation

This is pure, fast-paced fantasy at its finest. The characters are plentiful, the action is real, and the story is wonderful. Fantasy lovers will want to read this book. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fresh story that is set in a fantastical new world.

Rating

4.5/5

*Cover image taken from iamselfpublishing.com*

Where to find Michael R. Miller;

Website: thedragonsblade.com

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Where to find The Dragon’s Balade: The Reborn King;

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Guest post: 5 Useful Principles When Self Publishing (Or The Only One That Matters)

Guest post: 5 Useful Principles When Self Publishing (Or The Only One That Matters)

Hi, my name is Timandra, and I’m a self published writer. Just a few weeks ago I published my debut fantasy novel Touch of Iron which Dan reviewed here. And today he’s being so kind and letting me take over his blog. So, strap up your boots, and let me march you through self publishing; what works, what doesn’t, plus 5 useful principles I learned along the way.

TW picture PotC

So let me get my teacher hat (and chalk) and write on the blackboard of your mind a truism you’re gonna have to deal with when self publishing: a lot of self published books out there are shit. Shit nobody wants to read. So how do you get people to read your awesome book when there’s so much sewage out there?

 

Enter the indie writer gurus. These are the people who have been in the scene for years now, have carved out a living from their writing, and teach others how YOU CAN DO IT TOO. Our heroes. The people we look up to, listen to, want to emulate.

Baseline? Your self publishing strategy should look like this:

  • WRITE, PUBLISH, REPEAT.
  • Write your first book.
  • Publish it. Set the price to zero $.
  • Distribute it as widely as you possibly can.
  • Advertise it over Facebook Ads.
  • Do giveaways to get even more people in front of your book.
  • While doing this, write the next book in that series.
  • Keep doing this for at least five or six books (two trilogies for example).

 

So, last year I was determined to do exactly what my gurus were telling me. Until suddenly, caught up in the middle of publishing, I found I wasn’t. Why?

First up, my credentials: at the time of writing this guest post I’ve been published 6 weeks. In that time I’ve sold 84 ebooks, and 4 print copies. And I’ve given a number of books away for free in exchange for reviews. However, Touch of Iron ranks pretty consistently in the 300/400’s (fluctuates a bit) in the category Dark Fantasy in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com. It has 16 reviews, averaging on 4.4 stars. Is that any good? I dunno really. It’s my first time. I think so. Here’s how I deviated from the Self Publishing Formula™

I started out like all others do: I wrote a book. Only I didn’t write in the preferred money-making genres of Romance or Thriller. Instead, I wrote a fantasy story. Grimdark even. In my defense, it was the story I wanted to read, needed to write. But, sheesh, fantasy? Ain’t no one got time for fantasy. Audience is too busy watching Game of Thrones.

 

So I wrote and tweaked until I was sure I couldn’t improve it anymore on my own. I didn’t publish it, though. Professional authors, the big names you love to read, well, the publishing houses that pay them … they also pay for editing those books. So I got myself an editor and listened to him.

Then I rewrote.

Then I paid for beta readers who weren’t related or befriended to me. At all. I randomly picked a handful of beta readers on Fiverr.com.

Of course Mummy loves your book, sweetie. Here, have some coffee.
Of course Mummy loves your book, sweetie. Here, have some coffee.
Then I rewrote.

 

You know what other service publishing houses pay for? Copyeditors. These are the people who check your manuscript line by line for your grammar errors, typos, and language glitches. Got me one of those, too.

I made changes accordingly.

But see, I still hadn’t hit that publish button. A weird compulsion drove me to diverge from the pattern the gurus had laid out so neatly, and instead adopt a marketing strategy as though my book were traditionally published.

You know who else publishing houses hire? A proofreader. Someone new to the project to read over the entire body of work and check everything. Every-fucking-thing. So I paid for one of those.

I made changes accordingly.

So, I’ll stop here, but I hope you’re seeing the pattern: I paid for quality control. In fact, I’m paying a lot for quality control. On what should be a free, scatter-it-to-the-wind kinda book. Why? Remember that foolproof marketing strategy, Timandra? It really does work, you know.

Yes. It worked three years ago, and probably will work for a bit longer. But not forever.

It’s pointless to follow guidelines when everyone is still making it up as they go along. So maybe you too have to make it up as you go along.

There are two basic ways to market your self published book.

One is quantity.

This is what has become the Self publishing Code. You produce the best book you can as fast as you can. You’re gonna give it away, remember? Besides, you can easily upload an updated, typo free-er version later on. Change the suck-y cover. The point is to get your shit out there fast. Outshit the others, so to speak.

But …

I can’t. I have one demanding day job, two lively, young kiddos to parent, a husband who does occasionally yearn for my attention, and I already sleep less than 5 hours most nights (it’s 00.03 AM and I’m jittering on my 4th cup of coffee as I write this). There’s no way I can outshit the others by writing quantity.

So what else could I do? The gurus had no answer.

I was in the middle of publishing and realized I had to figure it out on my own

Scary, but it boils down to this: quality.

Granted, the product I’m selling won’t appeal to everyone. I don’t want it to. But it is the highest possible quality I could pay for, and I believe there’s an appreciative audience out there waiting for those kind of books. Sure, I’ll have to wait longer for my single book to earn me back the cost. I’ll have to take longer writing the next book in the series, because it too must attain to my set standard of quality. I’ve involved a lot of other professionals in my venture. They each have their own schedules and can’t work faster than they already are. Also, I want to keep this writing business up for a long time, my whole life preferably. There is no (Kindle Gold) rush.

Summing up, I’m not doing it according to the Self Publishing Formula™. I messed up the guidelines. (I’m sorry, guys. It’s not you, it’s me!) I improvised, I binge studied the night before, and frankly, on some days simply bluffed my way through it all. So …

5 Useful Guidelines When Self Publishing:

#1 Write the book you want to read.

#2 Make it the best you can. Get an editor already.

#3 Nothing beats word of mouth. You need reviews. So … hustle with the book bloggers out there. Hustle hard.

#4 Most of all in self publishing: you ALONE are responsible. Take the advice out there, but make things work for you. The industry is ever changing. No one even knows what’ll be the deal next year, let alone in five years time.

#5 Write the next book you want to read. No one will do it for you.

 

Resources:

My gurus:

Sean Platt & Johnny B Truant with Dave Wright: Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) (The Smarter Artist Book 1)

amazon

Nick Stephenson, Supercharge Your Kindle Sales: Simple Strategies to Boost Organic Traffic on Amazon, Sell More Books, and Blow Up Your Author Mailing List (Book Marketing for Authors 2) amazon

Mark Dawson, Facebook Advertising for Authors www.selfpublishingformula.com

 

My beta readers and proofreader: www.fiverr.com

 

My editors:

story: http://harrydewulf.com

copy: http://www.bookflydesign.com/editing/

About Timandra Whitecastle

Tim Whitecastle

Timandra is a self-confessed nerd and a writer of fantasy. She is a mother to two children and balances this with her writing AND a day-job!. Her debut novel Touch of Iron was released recently and is also an entry into the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) hosted by Mark Lawrence. The book has already been voted into second place for best cover by the adjudicating bloggers (it is seriously cool) and it’s easy to see why!

11 random things about Tamara:

  1. Best ISTJ of all times? Batman.
  2. I was born in Germany, but on British ground. (Interesting 1980’s legal technicalities.)
  3. I hate pizza. It is known.
  4. My favorite reading genres are Fantasy and Cook Books.
  5. In my class, I was the geek. (We were over twenty girls and only six boys. No one ever dated.)
  6. I used to play Everquest II online, but then … (wait for it!) I took an arrow to the knee.
  7. I sometimes use the TV as a babysitter AND promise my kids dessert if they eat their dinner.
  8. My goal in life is to leave behind as little as possible that my children have to throw away.
  9. I mostly eat a paleo diet. Except when I’m on the stuff-your-face-with-chocolate-diet. Then I don’t do paleo.
  10. I studied Literature at University. Finally I got to read as much as I wanted. And more. It was great.
  11. Now I’m a teacher for English as a Foreign Language. Basic principle? Message before accuracy!

My book: Touch of Iron (Click the image for the link)

touch of iron cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Tim (in a super non-creepy way. No, you can’t have her address)

Website: http://timandrawhitecastle.com/

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Book Review – Touch of Iron (The Living Blade #1) by Timandra Whitecastle

Touch of Iron (The Living Blade #1) by Timandra Whitecastle

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The book blurb;

‘Is the Living Blade real or just a legend?

With it… Prince Bashan could win back his kingdom.
Master Telen Diaz can free himself of the burden from his past.
Owen Smith sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain untold knowledge.

… but for Noraya Smith, the Living Blade will bring nothing but suffering and sorrow.’

Continue reading “Book Review – Touch of Iron (The Living Blade #1) by Timandra Whitecastle”

5 signs that you’re a reading addict

Are you addicted to reading? If you recognise any of these features then the chances are you’re a reading addict.

Continue reading “5 signs that you’re a reading addict”

Apologies.

Hi everyone, I hope you are all very well and are geared up for a great Christmas!!

I am writing this as an apology for my lack of presence lately; I have been searching for excuses but came up with; ‘My dog ate it’… In actual fact I have been busy and have not had the time, nor the energy to get around to giving this blog the love and attention that it needs, and that has really galled me!

So I’m back, and I’m reading…HARD. I have a bunch of review requests in my inbox and I will be responding to them throughout this week. So hopefully, over the next few weeks, I will be more active and I’ll be able to add some reviews.

Lastly; I have still been reading the blogs that I am subscribed to, I always love reading Drew’s poems over at thetattooedbookgeek and Suzanne’s posts over on her blog, and I will be buying have bought, her novel, ‘Visions of Zarua’!

Thank you to everyone who has continued to follow the blog, and for those who have recently followed me.

I’ll speak to you all soon 😀

Book Review – Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Hope and Red (Empire of Storms Trilogy #1) by Jon Skovron

Published June 30th 2016 by Orbit Books

The book blurb;

‘IN A FRACTURING EMPIRE SPREAD ACROSS SAVAGE SEAS, TWO PEOPLE FIND A COMMON CAUSE.

HOPE, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor’s forces, is secretly trained as a warrior and instrument of vengeance.

RED, an orphan adopted by a notorious matriarch of the criminal underworld, learns to be an expert thief and con artist.

Together they will take down an empire.’

Click to read the full review

In Memoriam: David Gemmell 1948-2006

In Memoriam: David Gemmell 1948-2006

On July 28th, 2006 the man who had single-handedly ignited my passion for fantasy fiction, sadly died, at his computer, in the middle of writing his final piece of work Troy: Fall of Kings.

David Gemmell’s first novel was Legend and introduced us all to Druss the Legend, a seasoned warrior who carries a double-headed axe named Snaga. Legend tells the story of the battle for Dros Delnoch and the Drenai army who are defending the walls. My favourite thing about this novel is the way that Gemmell deals with the minutiae of the characters, their hopes, their dreams, and their grim reality. Each character is fleshed out and real, the action is delivered at breakneck speed and the war is almost tangible. This is something that Gemmell managed to do within each of his 32 fantasy books. He dealt as much with the characters as he did with the worlds he created. Each of his characters are products of their world and are examples of the ‘greyness’ of humanity, they aren’t cut and dry, there is no black and white here. Koen Peters sums this up brilliantly;

‘Gemmell’s characters are always struggling with their inner demons. Past mistakes, hubris, greed, you name it. Yet in spite of these ‘flaws’, the protagonists fight for what they think is right.’

via geofftaylor-artist.com
via geofftaylor-artist.com
Gemmell’s own view of humanity is easy to see and this is reflected in all of his works. However, the world building is also a feature of Gemmell’s works. I love the world in which the Jon Shannow novels take place and the physical features of this. The gunslinger was foreign territory to Gemmell in terms of the physical nature of the warfare, where before he had dealt in mass war, and hand-to-hand combat, now he was dealing in new-age machinery and warfare. The change as something I enjoyed greatly, particularly the ideas behind the Sipstrassi novels.

Gemmell then moved into the historical fiction side of fantasy and wrote the Troy Series. These, for me, are when Gemmell was at his greatest. Gemmell focused on the characters and themes from Homer’s The Iliad and focuses on the events and characters taken from the poem. Gemmell played around with the characters and out his own spin on them, for example, Paris is studious and shy, and Helen of Troy is plain in appearance. I loved this unique take on the ever-famous characters and with Gemmell holding the pen, it’s hard not to fall in love with them. Achilles and Hector are given new life and felt really ‘fresh’ to me. I loved them both and really was swept along for the ride as their destinies were soon to entwine. My favourite pairing though, is Helikaon and Odysseus. Their relationship journeys from the loving, to the warring, to the regretting, something that every intense relationship will encounter. Gemmell does this with such authenticity and humanity that you really feel their hurt and their loss, it’s just brilliant.

Gemmell loved the idea of humans and heroes battling internally with what they want to do versus what they think they should do. Feeling this as the characters do will make you realise just how good Gemmell was when it came to exposing our true nature. He gave his heroes tough choices and ensured that they weren’t given an easy ride as they made them. I mean, in reality, who does? We are all faced with tough choices at some point or another and we all have to make a decision that does not rest easy on us and that we aren’t sure was the correct one. This is humanity, and this is what Gemmell cut his teeth on.

He also gave us lessons throughout his work, there are many different quotes and sections that I could pull in order to highlight this point, but, for now, I’ll choose my favourite;

‘Danyal was awake, her lip swollen and a bruise on her cheek. Caymal sat beside her. The wagon was cramped and the baker’s two young children were sleeping beside Danyal.

‘Thank you’, she said, forcing a smile.

‘They will not trouble you again.’

Caymal eased himself past Waylander and climbed out over the tailboard. Waylander moved up to sit beside Danyal. ‘Are you hurt?’ he asked.

‘No. Not much anyway. Did you kill them?’

‘Yes.’

‘How is it you can do these things?’

‘Practice,’ he said.

‘No, that’s not what I meant. Caymal tried to stop the man…and Caymal is strong, but he was brushed aside like a child.’

‘It is all about fear, Danyal. Do you want to rest now?’

‘No, I want some air. Let’s walk somewhere.’

He helped her from the wagon and they walked to the cliff face and sat on the rocks.

‘Tell me about fear,’ she said.

He walked away from her and stooped to lift a pebble.

‘Catch this,’ he said, flicking the stone towards her. Her hand snaked out and she caught the pebble deftly. ‘That was easy, was it not?’

‘Yes,’ she admitted.

‘Now if I had Krylla and Miriel here, and two men had knives at their throats and you were told that if you missed the pebble they would die, would it still be easy to catch? Think of those times in your life when you were nervous, and your movements became disjointed.

‘Fear makes fools of us all. So too does anger, rage and excitement. And then we move too fast and there is no control. You follow me?’

‘I think so. When I had to give my first performance before the King of Drenan, I froze. All I had to do was walk across the stage, but my legs felt as if they were carved from wood.’

‘That is it. Exactly! The onset of fear makes the simplest of actions complex and difficult. No more so than when we fight…and I can fight better than most because I bring all my concentration to bear on the small things. The pebble remains a pebble, no matter what hangs upon success or failure.

‘Can you teach me?’

‘I don’t have time.’

‘You are not obeying your own mantra. This is a small thing. Forget the quest and concentrate on me, Waylander – I need to learn.’

‘How to fight?’

‘No – how to conquer fear. Then you can teach me to fight.’

‘Very well. Start by telling me what is fear?’

‘An ending.’

‘Make it worse.’

‘Maggots and grey rotting flesh?’

‘Good. And where are you?’

‘Gone. Finished.’

‘Do you feel anything?’

‘No…perhaps. If there is a paradise.’

‘Forget paradise.’

‘Then I feel nothing. I am no longer alive.’

‘This death, can you avoid it?’

‘Of course not.’

‘But you can delay it?’

‘Yes.’

‘And what will that give you?’

‘The prospect of more happiness.’

‘But at worst?’

‘The prospect of more pain,’ she said. ‘Old age, wrinkles, decay.’

‘Which is worse? Death or decay?’

‘I am young. At the moment I fear both.’

‘To conquer fear, you must realise that there is no escape from what you dread. You must absorb it/. Live with it. Taste it. Understand it. Overcome it.’

‘I understand that,’ she said.

‘Good. What do you fear most at this moment?’

‘I fear losing you.’

He moved away from her and lifted a pebble. Clouds partly obscured the moonlight and she strained to see his hand.

‘I am going to throw this to you,’ he said. ‘If you catch it, you stay – if you miss it, you return to Skarta.’

‘No, that’s not fair! The light is poor.’

‘Life is not fair, Danyal. If you do not agree, I shall ride away from the wagons alone.’

‘Then I agree.’

Without another word he flicked the stone towards her – a bad throw, moving fast and to her left. Her hand flashed out and the pebble bounced against her palm, but she caught it at the second attempt. Relief swept through her and her eyes were triumphant.

‘Why so pleased?’ he asked.

‘I won!’

‘No. Tell me what you did.’

‘I conquered my fear?’

‘No.’

‘Well, what then? I don’t understand you.’

‘But you must, if you wish to learn.’

Suddenly she smiles. ‘I understand they mystery, Waylander.’

‘Then tell me what you did.’

‘I caught a pebble in the moonlight.’

– David Gemmell, taken from Waylander (1986)

His fictional heroes include Olek Skilgannon, Druss the Legend, Waylander and Connavar. They are all an ode to David Gemmell and his brilliance.

I consider myself very lucky to have been introduced to his various works and I have read each of them multiple times. What Gemmell has done for fantasy is immeasurable. He has introduced a style of writing that incorporates all of the necessary fantastical elements whilst ensuring that those reading them can do so with enjoyment, enthusiasm and ease.

David Gemmell lives on through his works, and I hope people continue to buy, and read, his stories. Also, there is the annual ‘Legend Awards’ which highlights the best upcoming and established fantasy writers, as well as those that have the best cover designs.

Thank you for reading ‘In Memoriam: David Gemmell 1948-2006’, I hope you enjoyed it. Please comment and let me know what your favourite David Gemmell book is, and why 🙂

 

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