Tag Archives: reviews

Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

So my son and I saw Logan a couple nights ago, and I mentioned on Twitter that I nearly walked out about ten minutes in. What I didn’t add was that I wanted to walk out and throw up. Neither the urge to walk nor the queasiness happened because the film did anything wrong for me. Instead, it was because the film depicted something so incredibly well, I took the gut punch before I even knew it was coming.

So this is not a review. It’s a reaction. Mild spoilers shall follow in this post, and might show up in comments should folks choose to chime in.

First, a review-ish thing unrelated to the gut punch: The fight scenes are incredible, and not because they’re all fancied up with slow-motion or odd lingering close-ups or flashy weapon manipulation that actual fighters won’t bring to an actual fight. No, my darlings, the fights in Logan are logical and smart. They are swift. They are economical. And those are the two traits a fighter who is experienced—and, frankly, plagued by a lifetime of scars and reduced stamina—will demonstrate in real life. Fighters who survive don’t become flashier as they age. They become efficient.

Now for the gut punch.

Many people have mentioned the aspect of abuse and trauma survivorship. I was hit with something else early in the film.

Caregiving.

Spoilers are below the cut for courtesy.

Continue reading Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

A Review, A Musing, and A Last Call

 

The Review:  As you might know, fantasy author Mark Lawrence put together the framework of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (details here), and Bob Milne of Beauty In Ruins is the book blogger randomly assigned to evaluate Sand of Bone.  Can I just say that any review whose opening sentence includes the phrase “quite astounding” is enough to make this writer do the Snoopy happy dance?  Check it out for yourself–both the praise and the critique.

*quickly pulls out soapbox*

And I’ll reiterate my belief that connecting more trade-focused/trade-exclusive reviewers with quality self-published works is vital if we (writers and reviewers) want to remain relevant to the conversations readers–those marvelous beings who sustain us all–are having about books the trade industry might not known exist.  If a self-published writer pulls down seven to eight thousand sales in pre-orders, and the majority of trade industry participants have no idea who that writer is–let alone that she exists!–that’s an issue to be considered, my darlings.

*slides soapbox back under the desk*

The Musing: In the past, I’ve discussed my approach to reading and analyzing reviews.  In short, I believe the old advice of “Don’t read your reviews” is rather unhelpful because analyzing reviews help the writer identify what she can do better on the marketing front as well as the writing front.  A writer who understands what her supporting readers love is a writer better able to reach similar readers.  It’s with that in mind that I fold Milne’s review into my understanding of why people like and dislike all or part of my work.

More than one reviewer (though, thankfully, not the majority!) have mentioned the pacing flagged for them somewhere in the middle.  Of those who specified why, it’s about an even split between basic training elements and palace intrigue elements.  (Of those who didn’t specify, it’s quite possible everything felt slow to them. ) Yet folks on both sides say they are glad they pushed through that section to finish the novel, so… what gives?

On the surface, it can seem to confusing, even contradictory.  Should I reduce the palace intrigue?  Should I reduce the military/training aspects?  Should I just let it be and assume readers who enjoy one but not the other will continue to “push through” to the end?

The answer is no, no, and no.

Truly, Sand of Bone’s final chapters would have delivered a completely different visceral package had either element been missing.  The decisions made on the palace-intrigue side would carry completely different implications without the military and basic training elements.   The consequences on the military side would be so much less important were it not for the palace intrigue.

As a reader and a writer, I want both elements in my stories.  I’m as interested in what happens on the frontline as I am in what happens in the secret bunker.  I want to know what the soldier and the general thinks, believes, fears, and contrives.  So the solution isn’t to choose a “side,” but to improve my ability to write compelling chapters that unfailingly funnel the reader to turn to the next chapter regardless of the story elements.

Last Call:  The Sand and Stone Newsletter will go out to subscribers the night of Wednesday, April 22.  It’ll include your link to a free and easy download of Serpent Heart, the latest news and cover reveal for Breath of Stone, and an opportunity to give input on future projects.  If you’d like to be part of it, sign up here.

 

SFWA, StoryBundle, and Breath of Stone

Item the First: The membership of SFWA has spoken and, by a vote of 6-to-1 in favor, has changed their governing by-laws to allow writers whose success comes from independent publishing to qualify for membership.  Detailed procedural guidelines are being hammered out, and it looks like authors will be able to begin applying by March of this year.

Last summer, I had my own dilemma over whether I should join.  And after I joined, I had my own disagreements with some of the organization’s choices, and I seriously expect I’ll have a couple more in the months and years ahead.  Yet and still, I am so danged happy–relieved!–to see this vote go through.  The support of the voting membership was loud and clear.  I’ll be sticking around.

Anyone who has questions about it, feel free to ask.  If I don’t know the answer, we’ll see if we can find someone who does. 🙂

Item the Second: The Indie Fantasy Bundle is entering its final week!  At the bottom of this interview with Brad Beaulieu are links to all the other author interviews.  In them you’ll find talk about worldbuilding, alchemy, international relations, history, windships, subversive genre-play, wish fulfillment and more.  It’s a fascinating group of people, and their diverse works reflect that.

If you’ve already picked up the bundle, thank you so much for supporting the authors and the charities!  It’s a wonderful thing, knowing so many new readers are finding and enjoying our books!

Item the Third:  The sequel to Sand of Bone is still moving forward apace.  Breath of Stone is currently slated for an April 2015 release.  If you want to be on the early warning list, sign up now for the Sand and Stone newsletter!

Item the Last: Sand of Bone received a marvelous review from The Book Adventures!  Happy writer!  In the current market, when there are so many more choices–quality choices, mind you–it means a great deal to not only be noticed, but to know the story was enjoyed.

#SFWApro

Stranger and Hostage — Reviews!

I don’t write reviews often.  Review-writing puts me in book-report mode (always hated those in school!), and then I’m certain everything comes out sounded as stilted as a nervous non-actor reading the opening chorus of Henry V for the first time.  But I love talking about books, and deeply truly want to see more readers connect with books deserving of their attention.  So, in the spirit of keeping 2015 as The Year of Giving Up, I present you with an actual review:

Stranger is the first book of The Change series, a collaboration written by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown.  Getting that book in print through traditional publishers was a many-year battle complicated by the fact the YA novel had, as one of its viewpoint characters, a gay teenager.  (Publishers Weekly provided coverage on the matter.  The article and its comments are well worth reading.)  It took an additional three years for Stranger to make it into print.

Stranger gave me a book hangover.  I stayed up way too late to finish it.  It has all the elements I love: real and conflicted characters, a fast-moving plot, and really smart writing.

The relationships between the characters evolved, broke apart, and came together without falling into the trap of melodrama. Rather than rely on a cliché of rebellious young people in conflict with their parents and culture, Stranger shows us working and healthy relationships between the generations. These are real young adults rather than over-the-top caricatures, and it’s refreshing to see them respected by the world’s adults as well. With action that moves so quickly, there’s no time to waste on false conflicts.

The world is familiar enough to feel comfortable, but I learned early on I shouldn’t for a moment let my guard down. I loved the unpredictability. Even in the midst of the novel’s climactic final third, revelations developed that completely changed my perspective on earlier events.

And once I finished Stranger, I wanted to pick up the next book… but it hadn’t yet been released.  How thrilled I was to get my hands on an ARC of Hostage, set to be released on January 6.  (It’s available for pre-order now.)  Why, yes, the sequel is self-published.  Details about the reasons will be discussed by the authors on the release date, and I’ll put up a link when it goes live.

Just like the first book of this series, Hostage kept me up reading far too late. The plot moves quickly and the worldbuilding delivers cool surprises, but it’s the characters who keep me engaged.

I absolutely love that so many of the adults of Las Anclas are determined to include and support the children and teenagers. The society is one where the young people are included as equals-who-are-learning rather than excluded as too-young-to-know-better, and the result is fully realized throughout the story.

And all those young people are clear and distinct people, which makes it easy for the reader to move between multiple viewpoints. I’m used to reading multiple-viewpoint novels, but usually find there’s at least one character whose viewpoint I want to skim. Not in this novel!

I do admit a special place in my heart for Jennie, who must face the emotional wounds she endured in Stranger. Her journey is portrayed with amazing empathy and realism that never slips into convenient resolutions. And she isn’t the only one struggling to figure out who she is in the aftermath of one battle while preparing to fight another.

Most of the major plot threads left open in Stranger are taken up and resolved in Hostage, but there is one notable exception left hanging. That exception is teased out now and then, so I expect it’ll entwine with the new threads that’ll carry forward into the next novel.

I don’t know how many novels are have planned, but do hope the series continues for some time. They’ve established plenty of unknowns to explore, and fantastic characters to do the exploring.

Hours and Days

SerpentCoverDec2014Until the end of today, Serpent Heart is free at Amazon.  It has been in the top 100 Free Kindle Short Reads for Science Fiction and Fantasy for the past few days, and that’s a happy-making thing.  So if you’re interested in picking it up, you have a very few more hours!  More books on sale and for free can be found at The Dealer’s Room.

Until the end of December, Sand of Bone is available for review through NetGalley.  Three days and a few hours are left for you to make your request.  It has already picked up two professional reviews (and will be included in the Indie Fantasy Bundle), so now is the time!

NetGalleyTwitterPic

Outside of that, I’m grabbing moments to write between happily-undertaken familial activities since my parents and my nephews are in town for a few days.  Productivity has been low since the day after Christmas, but family happiness has been high, and THAT’s the reason for the season.

#SFWApro

Like the New Look? Want To Review It?

Since I’m behind on just about everything, I did what any good independent author would do: spent hours creating a new ebook cover!

SerpentCoverDec2014

With holiday sales coming up, followed by StoryBundle (more on that soonly!), followed by the anticipated release of Breath of Stone, I wanted Serpent Heart to share some of the same visual elements as the rest.

In coordination with Sand of Bone’s appearance at NetGalley, I’m offering review copies of Serpent Heart as well.  Comment here or drop me a quick line via my contact page if you’d like to receive one!

#SFWApro

Review, Revisions, and StoryBundle

First: A very nice review of Sword and Chant from Marissa Lingen. After our conversation about this post on the visibility of women writers and reviews of self-published works, I queried her about reviewing Chant. I’m beyond delighted she had nice things to say about it. Really, there’s always that voice in the back of my head telling me I should be grateful if I get feedback more enthusiastic than, “Well, it doesn’t completely suck.” And that voice natters at me even when I love a story and am confident others will, too. So the fact her review includes the word “recommended” without the word “not” in front of it had me singing. (Yes, I truly sang. No, you wouldn’t want to hear it.)

The publisher side of me is just as jazzed about her acknowledgement of the good production values.  Reviews of traditionally published books wouldn’t make mention of such as thing unless it was truly awful, but it’s so important for reviewers to include at least a passing mention of good production in self-published works.  We all know there is crap out there.  Reviewers do all professional writers a service by acknowledging decent work.

(And if you haven’t read that post of women and reviews I referenced above, I recommend taking a look if for no other reason than it’ll link you to Marissa’s comments on her own review policies.)

Second: Revisions of Sand of Bone are still progressing despite the distractions of spring fever. There is still one plotting issue I’m not certain how to fix. I’m letting it simmer in the background while working on other sections in the hope a solution will reveal itself. If a solution doesn’t spring from my brow fully formed, I’m not certain what I’ll do.

Third: It’s official! I am curating a fantasy bundle for StoryBundle.  I so enjoyed working with them as a writer, and am looking forward to working with them again as both a writer and the curator.  It’s tentatively slated for a fall release, and I’ve already begun to screen submissions. If you’re interested in submitting something, cool! Later today I’ll put up an overview of what I’m looking for and how to go about submitting.

Women, Reviews, and Self-Publishing

I thought of writing a long post on the conversation about the visibility of women writers in SFF, but decided it all boils down to this: I am sick unto death of seeing articles and opinion pieces about the need to acknowledge women writers, from publications and groups that refuse to review and include and support women who self-publish.

The most common reason given for rejecting self-published works from reviews, sight unseen, is that there are just too many of them to review. By the same token, there are far too many traditionally published novels to review as well, so there is that. I get it. Making decisions takes time, and it can be difficult to choose which reviews will best please the readership.  Thus it’s easier to set aside a single publication method as not-reviewable.

That reasoning suffers from two downsides. First, the policy cuts out the work of many women whose writing didn’t gain approval from a relatively small audience of editors, but instead found a great audience among readers. It cuts out women who decided they didn’t want to seek such traditional approval, and chose instead to control and direct their own work. It turns away from women who have found success outside the system that the diversity-in-the-genre articles are ostensibly trying to impact.

Self-publishing is empowerment; cutting its existence from the landscape of writers’ options, while pushing for greater visibility of women writers, is rather counterproductive if inclusion is the actual goal.

Second, the policy ensures the publication will be missing out on the broadening conversation readers are having with a number of self-published writers. It won’t affect those readers much, since they’re obviously getting their information from a variety of sources. But there are readers who are entrenched in traditional publications and reviews, and will not venture far from the familiar. Those readers will be missing out on the greater conversation as well.

Again, making decisions takes time and can be difficult.

I knew when I self-published the sort of attitudes I’d be facing from traditionally-oriented reviewers, publications, bloggers, and even other writers.  To act surprised that I’ve found the environment to be pretty close to what I expected would be disingenuous.  I’m simply pointing out a contradiction that troubles me.

The review policies on self-published works will eventually change, likely when it becomes apparent that readers are having conversations the publications aren’t. And when it does change, we’ll be starting the conversation on the visibility of women all over again.

Until then, though, I’ll just keep watching the policies that state a support for women writers, as long as they’re not self-published women, because those self-published women should stay in their own playground.

Well. I guess that became a blog post after all.

UPDATE: This entry was crossposted to my LiveJournal, where writer and reviewer Marissa Lingen added comments about her review policy.  She is currently willing to consider self-published works.  PLEASE read those comments and follow the guidelines if you’d like to submit your work for review.  It would also be helpful to read a collection of posts at her blog so you’ll be clear on what sort of work she does and doesn’t review.

Not-Reviews and Links

100_2354On this snowy day, I’m taking a break from Sand of Bone revisions.  My darlings, I know the revision process has gone on far too long–so long that it feels quite irresponsible to take a break of any sort.  But, well… Here we are.

I’ve been reading and muchly enjoying Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy.  I could go on and on about how much I enjoy the characters and their interactions, or how tickled I am to see the insides of a revolution amidst a realistically convoluted world.  But one of the other things Elliott has done beautifully is measure her characters against the immutability of core morality—but never confuses morality with affiliation.  With our own current political climate utterly polarized by affiliation, it’s refreshing to watch characters find their allies, question their choices, and make externally-conflicting-but-internally-consistent decisions that are adjusted based upon new information.  I haven’t finished the trilogy yet, and so look forward to reading the last third of the third that I find myself purposefully slowing my reading so I don’t reach the end so quickly.

Not too long ago, I finished Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest, recommend by Sherwood Smith.  This, too, deals with revolutions and revolutionaries.  One central character finds the strength she needs to endure and succeed by holding more and more tightly to narrowing set of goals.  The other central character finds her strength though asking tough questions and adjusting her goals and perspectives.  Neither is more right or wrong that the other.  The challenges the characters face, and the settings in which they face them, require wildly different approaches even though their goals are essentially the same.

Between those two novels, I’ve tried repeatedly to sink into Ancillary Justice.  It isn’t that I haven’t liked it—I’ve really been taken by the concepts, in fact—but I haven’t found it as compelling in terms of story.  I’ll likely return to it after I finish Elliott’s trilogy in the hope the story will catch me.

On the nonfiction side, I’ve been reading The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back.  It’s as long and detailed as an epic novel, and I’ve been very pleased with the data used to back up the claims and proposals, but is too much for me to read and process all in one fell swoop.  Even so, I’m repeatedly struck by how we continuously make programs and policies bigger and more complicated in an attempt to make life simpler and easier.  It’s essentially investing millions to teach people to do more with less, rather than investing thousands to ensure there is more to do more with.  Forex, when I was living on a thousand dollars a month, I didn’t need an expensive training program to help me land a new job.  I needed six hundred dollars for new tires so I could drive to the job I was already trained to do.  Alas, I qualified for a training program, but there wasn’t even a “buy new tires” program to which I could apply.

Next up on nonfiction is How Can You Defend Those People? recommended by Nancy Jane Moore over at Book View Cafe.  The work of criminal defense attorneys fascinates me.  (In fact, when I looked into law school, it was with the goal of working as a defense attorney.)

And now, for a few links:

Hackschooling Makes Me Happy is a TEDx talk from teenager Logan LaPlante.  I love what this kid is saying, and adore the “structure” of his education.  If I had to do it all over again, I’d have homeschooled more fully along those lines.  Really, it wasn’t until this year that I completely let go of the curriculum-driven mindset.  Would that I had dumped it two years ago!

Fit and Feminist on the neurosis that has permeated The Biggest Loser.  I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve seen who are so obsessed with the notion of “healthy weight” that they’re driving themselves into illness to get it.  An extra ten or twenty pounds is not nearly as unhealthy for a person as a sedentary life or a diet devoid of essential nutrients.  And people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that, if they eat stuff like “healthy” granola and yogurts, they might as well chow down on a candy bar.

Over at Books by Women is an article on coming to writing with a theater background.  I love and can relate to her discussion of using the tools of compelling theater to write compelling fiction.  There is cool stuff there that made me think more about how I use my own theater background.

Lastly, there is The Destructive Power of Publishing.  I’ve never been one to completely and utterly dismiss all that Big House publishing is and can be, but I think I’ve made it clear why Big House publishing is not for me.  For more on that, check out Judith Tarr’s series on Escaping Stockholm.  This article speaks to those reasons.

I like getting my validation directly from readers.  Every sale is an acceptance letter!