October Wrap-Up & November Goals

Happy half-price candy day! I had to go into the office yesterday, so my costume was really simple. What did you dress up as?

It was a fast month, as always, but I got a lot accomplished and I’m gearing up for my version of NaNoWriMo. Instead of writing 50,000 words this month, I’m going to continue editing Steel Victory in preparation for the new edition this summer. Other plans include travel to three events, but before that, I’m celebrating a friend’s wedding tonight. The fun never stops.


October Wrap-Up

  • Instead of the traditional revision process I go through for my newly written novels, I decided to tackle Steel Victory a different way. This meant going through my “search and destroy” editing list for over-used words and words in which the language can be punched up. I’m so proud of how much my writing has improved in the last few years. I ended up cutting almost 10k words from the novel, but don’t panic! The majority of that was extra fluff that had no impact on the plot or characterization. All this means is that the new edition will have room for more bonus material.
  • Oh dear, I’m still working on that beta read. Don’t worry, the author knows I’ve got a lot going on, and she’s been busy with other projects and things in her life, too.
  • I had a great time at Capclave 2019 in Rockville, Maryland! Find my con report here.

November Goals

  1. As I mentioned above, continue editing Steel Victory. Now, I’ll be taking the more typical route, reading page by page and scene by scene to tweak language and clean things up. My standing goal is 1 or 2 scenes (minimum 10 pages) per day, which should take all month with a few mental health days as necessary.
  2. *mumble mumble* beta-reading…
  3. Lots of travel this month! In additional to a single-day event in Washington DC for the day job earlier in the month, I’ll be attending Starbase Indy for the first time this year in the days after Thanksgiving!
  4. Then, I’m going straight from Indianapolis to Houston for a conference for the day job, which runs me into the beginning of December.

In Case You Missed It

Book Reviews

Around the Internet


Some cozy snuggles to start the month off right!

Review: Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews

It’s no secret to anyone following my book reviews that Ilona Andrews is one of my “drop everything and read the new book ASAP” authors. I anxiously awaited the arrival of the newest installment of the Hidden Legacy series and devoured the book within 24 hours.

Reading the previous installments of this series makes for a better story (which I revisited the week before release, and was just as thrilled with them as the first time), especially including the novella that stars Catalina as a POV character. Catalina features many of the attributes that made her older sister Nevada a compelling character, but even though they are sisters, there are plenty of differences between them. Catalina’s skill set, both magically and practically, give her a unique viewpoint to solving problems. Her relationship with the main mystery of the book also takes a different approach from how her sister might have handled things.

The main male hero is intriguing, and his actions in the book give a broader look at how magic exists on an international scale, beyond Houston and even the United States. I especially liked the historical details slipped into the narrative, such as only one world war instead of two. I’d love a better picture of what Europe looks like based on this history.

As usual, other Baylor family members also get in on the action, and continue to delight.

This is a solid beginning to a new set of books in this series, where many answers are left tantalizingly out of reach.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Balefire (Whyborne & Griffin #10) by Jordan L. Hawk

Ten is a solid, round number, so I thought this would be the final book in the series. I was disappointed that the grand finale didn’t look like it would take place in the city of Widdershins, but I figured out early in the story that this was not the end of the series. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it looks like book 11 will be the end instead.

As usual, Hawk does a fantastic job of blending horror and action. Meeting the Endicott clan on their own ground was fraught with tension and surprises. They finally get their due, and I definitely pity them for it. Everyone comes close to death on more than one occasion, secrets are revealed, and there are creepy/scary moments galore.

I don’t think I could adore Christina any more than I already do, but the stand-out character in this story is Whyborne’s mother Heliabel. I love that she is living the full life that was denied her for far too long.

If I ever complained that this Lovecraftian-inspired series didn’t have enough tentacles, this installment makes up for that lack in spades. Every evil that is banished reveals a greater foe to be fought, and Whyborne, Griffin, and their friends make a solid team that I hope will be up to the task.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Empire of the Goddess by Matthew Warner

Disclaimer: I received an electronic version of this novel from the author for review.

Things I really enjoyed about this novel: The world-building. The terrifying dystopian society fueled by human sacrifice. The representation of science versus magic, and how the two can be indistinguishable. The religious allegories. The twist and other revelations at the very end. Warner creates a fascinating parallel universe with obvious thought put into familiar allegories, enough that I was willing to forgive moments where logic might fall apart.

Things I really disliked about this novel: It starts with the main character and grows from there. Thomas is not a sympathetic character beyond the first few pages and I basically kept reading for the story elements even as I constantly rolled my eyes and sighed at the protagonist (fortunately, the writing itself is strong and flows at a good pace). The contrived relationship arc never felt realistic, especially since the potential partner is set up as “should know better” from the beginning. The “romance” limps along despite Thomas’ constant immaturity and any good sense on Lily’s part. Unfortunately, her story arc ends with an over-used fiction trope. I would have stopped reading there if I’d had more than an hour left per my Kindle.

Warner’s tepid and unlikable protagonist does a disservice to the excellent potential of the world created for this story.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Con Report: Capclave 2019

Note: If you are here to find a copy of my alternate history presentation, see below!

I spent a lovely weekend in Rockville, Maryland, as part of Capclave 2019! Highlights included being on panels with both guests of honor (Robert Sawyer and Martha Wells) and giving my alternate history presentation to a small but participatory crowd. I also caught up with lots of friends.

Friday

After a half-day at work, I headed for the convention hotel. I’m in commuting distance for this convention, but I decided to treat myself to a weekend away and stay for the whole weekend (sleeping in without cats demanding breakfast at 6 AM is pure bliss).

I had two panels that evening, and my mom drove down to see me on them! First up was a discussion on psychos and psychopathy/sociopathy in general and how it relates specifically to Robert Sawyer’s novel Quantum Night. After a short break, I was back on the hot seat for a fantastic conversation about “nontraditional protagonists,” both in terms of diversity and representation and how flipping audience expectation can result in an interesting and original story.

I spent the rest of the evening hanging out at the hotel bar and chatting with fellow authors.

Saturday

My schedule started late on Saturday, so after the aforementioned lie-in, I ate lunch with a friend and then prepared for my alternate history presentation.

This convention advertised it as a workshop, so I ended up with a small crew of attendees. They were all very engaged in the content and crafted some wonderful potential worlds. Our nexus point alternate history considered a world where antibiotics were never developed, and our more speculative true alternate history posited a fictional world in which Jesus Christ exhibited broader magical abilities and was embraced by the Roman Empire. You can download a PDF version of my presentation here:

After a quite lunch with another friend, it was time for my Saturday night panel: Beyond the Hero(ine)’s Journey. We discussed how speculative fiction has grown beyond Campbell’s traditional adventure arc, how women and men characters are often treated differently in stories, and how story arcs should fit the narrative.

The mass book signing followed, in which I got to chat with lots of readers, and then I headed to my late-night reading slot. I actually had an audience, despite the late hour! After a short reading from Steel Shadows, I lured them back to my natural habitat, the hotel bar, to close out the night.

Sunday

After another lovely lie-in, it was time to pack up. But not to head home quite yet! Before my final panel of the day, I did the requisite shopping in the dealers room and snagged some lovely holiday gifts for family members (and one gorgeous present for myself). Then, it was off to a discussion on female villains! This became a bit of a sociological conversation, where we analyzed how many women villains are often punished for either embracing their sexuality or for not embracing the traditional role of motherhood. We also touched a bit on how to create well-rounded characters of any gender.

Finally, time to head home through the rain. The spouse treated me to a lovely post-con dinner of ramen and then I spend the rest of the evening reading and watching the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen (it was an intriguing alternate history and I’m looking forward to further episodes).

I’m home for the next few weekends, then you can find me at my debut appearance for Starbase Indy, the weekend following Thanksgiving!


The final haul:

  • All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells (signed by author)
  • Pearl necklace, Undiscovered Treasures

2019 Resolution Project: Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews

My 2019 Resolution Project over at my other blog, Speculative Chic, is to read the entire Kate Daniels urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews, finishing up with a first read of the final book in the series.

I’ve read the seventh book, Magic Breaks, before, and originally reviewed it in March 2016. You can find my NEW full review here.

An excerpt:

“Alas, Kate’s identity is no longer much of a secret to pretty much anyone by the end of this tale. Including to her father. Kate and Roland, the leader of the vampire-navigating People, meet face to face. And absolutely nothing turns out as expected.”

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars.

Review: The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier

Disclaimer: I consider the author a friend; however, I purchased the hardcopy version of this book for full price.

As a reader who loves period dramas where the characters are often committed to the correct manners and more, importantly, the correct clothes, I couldn’t go wrong with a version of England with TWO forms of aristocracy. Even better, the second took the form of a female-driven society of witches.

I adored the world-building that went into this unique steampunk story, where magic and technology clash as a metaphor for societal gender dynamics. This book’s evolution of magic made me interested in so much more than the story I was given, and I’d be thrilled if the author revisited this world in the future.

As for the main events in the book itself, Arabella was a sympathetic character faced with multiple plights due to her unique magical abilities. It doesn’t help that her mother is a narcissistic sociopath or that the men in her family, whom Arabella goes to for safe harbor, don’t really see her as worth more than what her power can bring them either.

Unfortunately, I wanted more from the climax of this book. The trials mentioned on the back cover seemed like they should have been stepping stone toward a more dramatic conclusion, especially in regards to the larger issues at play. Like I said, I’d be happy to see more of this world — especially if it means that I get to see Arabella face off against the bigger picture Sonnier has created.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Book Spotlight: Tales From the Storm by C.R. Langille

I’m pleased to celebrate author and friend C.R. Langille’s new short story collection, Tales From the Storm, today. Learn more about the book and the author below!


ABOUT THE BOOK

The storm rages on, leaving death and destruction in its path. With the chaos comes strange tidings and wicked ordeals.

From C.R. Langille, author of the Dark Tyrant Series comes a collection of weird and horrifying stories spanning all across history: the Spanish Conquest; the Old West; present day; and even a desolate, apocalyptic future.

Haunted hotel rooms, mysterious, mind-bending spots, infernal cargo, and misplaced wishes abound in this collection.

Stories Included:
The Spot | Brine & Blood | The Deep Well | All Aboard | Damned | The Scratch | Horishi Tom

Only one thing is certain when the storm passes by–nothing will ever be the same again.

Amazon | Goodreads


A Note From the Author

This collection is unique to me because each of the stories contained within were previously published in various anthologies. As I started to regain my rights back for the stories, I decided it would be neat to offer them all in one place. I’m proud of it in the fact that it showcases my journey as a writer, from my first published story to some of my more recent publications. It hasn’t ended with this book either, I’m getting ready to publish Volume Two in the next few months.

C. R. Langille

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.R. Langille has been searching the darkness for the ultimate scare for over a decade. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he began crafting nightmares for others to enjoy. He and his family live in Utah. His stories can be found from Dark Fantasy Press, Dark Moon Books, Griffin Publishers, Fictionvale, Sirens Call Publications, and FearKnocks.net. He’s an avid hunter, martial-artist, table-top gamer, and amateur survivalist. He is an affiliate member of the Horror Writer’s Association, a member of the League of Utah Writers, and received his MFA: Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bookbub | Amazon | Goodreads | Newsletter

Review: Black and Blue (Red and Black #2) by Nancy O’Toole Meservier

Disclaimer: I am friends with the author; I received an electronic version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is very obviously the middle book in a trilogy; at the same time, it does not suffer many of the issues that middle books usually employ. Instead, it works as a solid follow-up to Meservier’s debut novel, both by answering holdover questions and posing fascinating new ones.

Things take a bit to get started, and Dawn (formerly Red and Black, now officially the superhero Hikari) frustrated me with her angst. On the other hand, Alex (fabulously ambiguous hero/antihero Faultline) had a story line I found myself much more invested in.

Intriguing character reveals were the highlights of this story for me. One secret identity felt a little too convenient, but the other blew me away. I appreciate books with no obvious bad guy, and this one hit all my buttons. Another fantastic reveal involves how Meservier balances superhero cliches rooted in a firmly urban fantasy setting, and I’m excited to learn more about Dawn’s powers in the next book.

This is not your average superhero story. Readers looking for a unique take on the urban fantasy genre should not miss out on this series.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Capclave 2019 Schedule!

I’ll be returning to Capclave 2019 this weekend in Rockville, Maryland! Here’s where you can find me.

Friday

  • 5:00 PM: Psychos (panel)
    • What is a psychopath and are they really running the world? Do psychopaths have an advantage when it comes to running countries and major corporations? What can we do about it? What if we developed an accurate test (as in Sawyer’s Quantum Night) to see who is a psychopath?
    • With Robert J. Sawyer, Larry Hodges, Lawrence M. Schoen, and Michael A. Ventrella (moderator)
  • 7:00 PM: Nontraditional Protagonists (panel)
    • Until recently, the typical sf/fantasy protagonist was a white male in his late teens early 20s. Now we have more diversity. How has greater inclusion changed science fiction/fantasy? How does this diversity affect plot and characterization beyond just descriptions of the protagonist? Can this diversity attract new readers who now can see characters who look like them; or does it alienate existing readers? Have things gone too far or not far enough?
    • With Martha Wells, Brenda W. Clough (moderator), Natalie Luhrs, and Ted Weber

Saturday

  • 4:00 PM: Alternate History: Creating Stories by Changing the Past (workshop)
    • Author J.L. Gribble presents a workshop on alternate history. Learn what defines alternate history by exploring successful alternate history stories. After learning the basics, participants will then collaborate interactively to build a full featured alternate history.
  • 7:00 PM: Beyond Hero(ine)s Journey (panel)
    • Has SF/fantasy progressed beyond the templates established in the early days? Is this a good thing? Which models can and do replace it?
    • With Sarah Avery (moderator), Leslie Burton-Lopez , Craig L. Gidney, and Dina Leacock
  • 10:00 PM: Reading
    • Anyone who actually shows up for a reading this late at night will get to pick what they want me to read from!

Sunday

  • 2:00 PM: Female Villainy in Fiction and Media (panel)
    • How can SF/Fantasy move beyond hypersexualization, Fem Fatale clichés, and abuse-related motivations and write better binary and non-binary villains. What can readers do to encourage this?
    • With Beth Brenner (moderator), Shahid Mahmud, and A.C. Wise