Superheroes and Supernatural Romances: What I Read Over My Vacation

I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t you just take a vacation, Nancy? To that I’d say, yes! How observant of you. I did take a vacation back in July! This odd schedule is mostly due to having a new job. I wasn’t allowed to take any time off for the first six months. Now, if I don’t take a certain portion of my vacation, I’ll end up losing that by the end of the year. So I figured, why not take it now, while the weather is still nice?

Of course, my favorite thing about vacations is having the time to catch up my reading. I did this by consuming one novella, one novel, and three graphic novels. Read on for my thoughts on each.

How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger (Paranormal/Romance)– These Parasol-verse novellas are perfect way for fans to see more of their favorite side characters. This time around it’s gamma werewolf Channing. In How to Marry a Werewolf we learn about his past and future when Channing finds himself drawn to Faith, an American geologist who’s been sent to England under strict instructions to find a werewolf husband.

There’s a lot to enjoy about How to Marry a Werewolf, not the least being Faith herself. Being an American, she brought a unique outsider perspective to the story. I also enjoyed the fact that much like Channing, she had secrets of her own. The novella makes a really good case for why the two make suitable partners to each other and the HEA is very much earned. As of the writing of this review, this is the last of the novellas that Carriger has written in the Parasol Protectorate Universe, and I look forward to reading any future releases.

Black Panther: Long Live the King by Nnedi Okarafor (Superheroes)- I’m going to be up front with on this one. Black Panther: Long Live the King just didn’t work for me. Which is unfortunate as I’ve enjoyed other Black Panther books, and other works by Nnedi Okarafor. Long Live the King collections three different stories of various lengths about around Black Panther and other related characters. The one I like the best focuses on a giant beast appearing in the middle of Wakanda, creating a massive power outage. This is the longest story in the collection and felt like the most complete to me.

Unfortunately, the other two stories felt like they needed a little more to them. As a whole, Long Live the King felt like it was there to tell fun adventure tales, almost in a classic comic book sense. And (much like Black Panther comics and Nnedi Okorafor stories) while this normally works well for me. It just didn’t this time around. Too bad.

Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland (Paranormal)- Oooh boy, things are really getting interesting in this urban fantasy series. In Sins of the Demon, demon summer and homicide detective Kara Gillian finds the tables turned on her when someone is tries to summon her to the demon world. At the same time, a series of seemingly natural deaths pop up in her terrotiry. When Kara discovers that all of the victims are connected to her, she knows that something is up. But will she manage to solve the mystery before she’s ripped from this dimension?

I must admit, that I feel a little cheated with this one. Why give me cover like THAT with a book that provides the least amount of demonic sex scenes in the series thus far? In all seriousness, this was a really enjoyable addition to the series that does a great job of balancing the paranormal, mystery, and romantic elements. It also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I know I’ll need to check out the next book, Touch of the Demon, soon.

Ms. Marvel, vol 9: Teenage Wasteland by G. Willow Wilson (Superheroes)- I actually already reviewed this one in detail in my Best Books of Summer Post, so I’ll just touch on this one lightly. Teeange Wasteland is another fantastic volume of Ms. Marvel, albiet one where Ms. Marvel herself is absent for several issues. Much like the previous volumes in this series, Teenage Wasteland manages to be fun, yet poignant at the same time. I will be a sad reader when G. Willow Wilson moves on from this character.

Batman, vol 2: I am Suicide by Tom King (Superheroes)-. Batman had cobbled together his own mini suicide squad in order to locate Psycho Pirate, currently a guest of the nefarious Bane. Will he manage to be successful or will the villains he fights alongside stab him in the back?

A lot of people (but not everyone) seem to enjoy Tom King’s run on Batman. I liked the first volume well enough, but it wasn’t until I am Suicide that I really started liking it. And I must admit, that mostly has to do with Catwoman. She and Bruce share a fierce connection, built on a strong emotional bond and steamy chemistry. At the same time. she is a trickster, which makes her wonderfully unpredictable. While I am Suicide has it’s faults, I was pleased with it overall and I will be continuing this particular run.

So that’s it! Everything I read over my vacation. A paltry list, I know, compared to some other super readers out there, but for me, this was pretty good. I hope you find something interesting as a result.


Discovery Writer No More? The Birth of a Planster

When I did my first National Novel Writing Month back in (dear god) 2004, I was a complete pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants, with little to no preparation). I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about, and how I wanted things to end. As for the rest? Well, I’d just figure that out as I went along. And it went well enough. No, I didn’t finish the novel, but all you need to do to win is write 50,000 words. In the years since then, I’ve participatedin NaNoWriMo seven times, and I’ve moved from someone that couldn’t complete a first draft to someone with the ability to bring a novel through multiple rounds of revisions. And during said revisions I realized that I was kind of fucking myself over with my pure pantser ways. Revisions were always painful, and time consuming, thanks in large part to my super messy first drafts.

So, one year (not for NaNo, but for a side project) I tried doing the traditional, chapter by chapter outline. And it was a complete disaster.

Then, a couple years back, I read Rachel Aaron’s fabulous 2k to 10k: How to Write Faster, Write Better and Write More of What You Love, which, as you may have guessed from the title, is all about upping both the quantity and quality of your word output. In the first chapter, she talks about the importance of preparation, and how she realized that the words would flow much easier if, before she wrote, she spent a few minutes sketching out her scenes.

The concept of freewriting a scene out before writing it highly appealed to my pantster soul, as did the idea of planning your books more or less as you wrote, instead of committing to an entire outline of a book before beginning your first chapter. When I tried to do that traditionally outlined novel, once I actually began writing, I quickly realized that my carefully laid prepwork had a lot of problems. I found myself trying to force the story back to the outline,  which didn’t work.

But this method of preparation didn’t require me to look ahead quite that far! So during NaNoWriMo 2017, I decided to give it a shot.

Admittedly, I didn’t do things quite the way that Aaron laid out in the first chapter in her book. For one thing, I knew that it would take me a lot longer than a few minutes to plan out a scene, and given that my writing time in the morning is only an hour long, I needed every minute to be devoted to my word count. Also, the book I was writing had a particularly tricky structure that utilized multiple timelines and viewpoints. So, in order to make sure things lined up more or less as they should, I needed to know where I was going for the next few chapters, albeit not the entire book.

So, during the second half of October of 2017, I freewote the first third of my novel. This didn’t violate any of the NaNoWriMo rules. I wasn’t writing out any of my actual words. Instead, I simply described what was going to happen in each chapter in a very free flowing way that soothed my need to discovery write.

Another benefit is I was able to tackle the types of things that typically trip me up in the drafting stage, like knowing the names of all of the characters, important physical details, or everyone’s powerset (I write superhero fiction). I was also able to discover small problems and fix them before they made into to the actual novel.

It’s important to note that this wasn’t a small time commitment. Rather than a few minutes here and there, I ended devoting quite a few hours to this both before and during NaNoWriMo (I would continue to free write upcoming chapters in the evening after work). But you know what? It was totally worth it. My NaNoWriMo writing experience went very smoothly, and I was able to finish things on schedule in December, despite the tricky structure of the book. But where I’ve really seen positive results is in the revision process. Sure, things were still pretty messy, but compared to my previous NaNoWriMo draft, where I had to throw away and rewrite half of the book, it’s been so much better.

As of the writing of this blog entry, I’m in the middle of prepping for this year’s NaNoWriMo using the same method. This year, I’d like to plan things out a little further. Freewriting future chapters in the evening was totally doable, but it got to be quite draining after a few weeks. And I find NaNoWriMo to be plenty draining to begin with.

It feels a little strange to be preparing like this. I’ve been a discovery writer for as long as I can remember. But if I had to be honest with myself, some more planner habits have been sneaking into my NaNo prep for years, whether it be something as simple as writing down character names. Maybe this is just the next step. Maybe being a planster (a hybrid planner, pantser) is for the best. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m becoming a better writer. Maybe it’s just a symptom of getting older and not being able to hold an entire book in my head quite so easily anymore. Regardless, it’s made the entire writing process much smoother. So I’m going to stick with it.

Best Books of Summer 2018

By the time this entry goes up, summer will feel like a distant memory. But it will be a positive one, as I read so many great books over the past few months! Below, you’ll find a thought provoking essay collection, a steampunk fueled F/F romance, the tales of a young caped crusader and more! Please read on for reviews of the best books I read in July, August, and September.

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger (Romance, Steampunk)– Over the summer, I read all four of Gail Carriger’s Parasol-verse novellas, and this one is my favorite. Romancing the Inventor tells the story Imogene Hale, who has recently taken on the job of a parlor maid for the local vampire hive. Here, she encounters Genevieve LeFoux an eccentric French inventor. Imogene’s mind and heart are drawn to Madame LeFoux, but does Genevieve feel the same?

Madame LeFoux is a character that has seen a fair amount of tragedy and struggles throughout the various novels in the Parasol-verse, so I found it incredibly satisfying to see her get her HEA in Romancing the Inventor. Imogen was also a really likable and smart character. And on top of that, there are cameos from a couple my favorite Parasol-centric characters. If you’ve enjoyed Genevieve’s adventures through The Finishing School and Parasole Protectorate series, then do yourself a favor and catch up with her here.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris (Historical Fiction)– I talked about this one already in my What I Read Over My Vacation post, so I’ll keep things brief. My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a wildly inventive graphic novel that grapples with weighty topics, and plays homage to pulp horror, under the structure of a coming of age story and murder mystery set in Chicago in the 1960s. If you’re looking for something truly a unique, then give My Favorite Thing is Monsters a short.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Essays)- The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays that covers a wide variety of topics including books, movies  fandom, and feminism, as well as some more personal selections that reveal Hurley’s own history. I was surprised to find that I had already read a number of the essays found in here (they had been previously published online), but they were so damn good that it didn’t bother me at all. The concepts and ideas that can be found in this book are worth revisiting, time and time again. When it comes to my favorite feminist nonfiction, I’d place this right at the top, next to Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Science Fiction)– A meteor has struck the earth, setting earth on course to an extinction level event. Mankind must find a way to colonize the stars, but in the 1950s, societal prejudices turn out to be a bigger impediment then technological barriers. Mathematician, engineer, and former WW2 pilot, Elma York knows that there are smart capable women out there that are just as qualified to be astronauts as men, but will she be able to convince the world?

Words cannot express how much I loved this novel. The writing was effortlessly smooth, the characters so rich. Elma was both admirable, due to her strength and poise, yet painfully relatable due to her vulnerabilities. If I could recommend just one book to anyone that I have read so far this year, it would be the The Calcuating Stars.

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal (Science Fiction)- Of course when you’re done with The Calculating Stars, you have to dig into the second book in the Lady Astronaut sequel, The Fated Sky. Some spoilers for The Calculating Stars can be found below. The second book in the Lady Astronaut series jumps ahead to the 1960s. Mankind has already made it to the moon but the real challenge is Mars. With the chance to be one of the first ones to visit the red planet, Elma York finds her personal life at odds with her professional ambitions, but that pales in comparison to the challenges she finds in space.

Set almost entirely in space, The Fated Sky is a dramatically different book than The Calculating Stars, but thanks to Kowal’s strong writing, complex characters, and firm grasp of the social issues or the era, it’s just as compelling. I am so happy to hear that there will be two more books set in this universe, because I so desperately want to spend more time with Elma and the other characters.

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (Superheroes)- When eighteen-year-old Bruce Wayne interferes with a police investigation-destroying an expensive vehicle in the process-he ends up facing community service at Arkham Asylum. Here, he finds himself drawn to one of the inmates, who reveals more information to him that she ever did to the Gotham City police officers investigating her case. Bruce believes that he can question her, solving the mystery, but is he the one manipulating her? Or is she manipulating him?

Batman: Nightwalker is part of the fantastic DC Icons series, where established YA authors tackle iconic DC superheroes and villains. Author, Marie Lu clearly knows Bruce Wayne, and does a great job giving the audience a glimpse of what he may have been like before embracing the cape and cowl: less experienced, but no less driven. There’s also an appealing psychological aspect of the novel as you deal with the power play between Bruce and the prisoner Madeline. If you’re a Batman fan, then you need to check this out.

Attack on Titan, vol 25 by Hajime Isayama (Science Fiction)– The latest arc of Attack on TItan hits a pivotal turning point in volume twenty-five. Eren reveals himself to Reiner after years of separation. But what are his real intentions?

I’m keeping my summary intentionally vague, because the twenty-fifth volume of Attack on Titan is something you need to really experience for yourself. Attack on Titan is at it’s strongest when it depends on three things: character drama, titan-fueled action, and punch-to-the-face plot twists. These are elements that volume 25 has in spares. I’m really exited, based on some of the reveals in this volume, to see what will happen next,

Rogue and Gambit: Ring of Fire by Kelley Thompson (Superheroes)– Gambit and Rogue are a pair with a lot of emotional baggage, baggage that they will have to sort through when their latest mission places them undercover as a couple going through marital therapy! The pair will have to stay the course if they want to locate a group kidnapped mutants, but will they be able to stomach the truths that they unearth in the process?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I have a real weakness for superhero romances, so when I heard that Rogue and Gambit were going to have a graphic novel based around their relationship, I was intrigued. The result is just what I wanted, a story that takes a deep dive into a decades-old emotional bond between two loveable characters, while not skimping on the cool, show stopping action sequence at the end. I loved this book to itty bity pieces, and would highly recommend it.

Ms. Marvel, vol 9: Teenage Wasteland by G Willow Wilson (Superheroes)- In the latest volume of Ms. Marvel, a disillusioned Kamala Khan has walked away from her superhero identity, leaving her friends to fill her place. But what happens when they find themselves up against a genuinely villainous threat?

I love the Ms, Marvel comics so much, and will be genuinely devastated when writer G. Willow Wilson moves on to other projects. She has a real talent for blending super heroics with teenage drama, not to mention incredibly clever/socially relevant humor. This is why Teenage Wasteland, a comic where it’s titular hero is absent for several issues, works so well. The comic has more than one strength, and it can stand just fine on it’s own when one element is removed. Given how things end, I’m very intrigued to see where things go in the tenth volume, which comes out in January of 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Black Bolt, vol 2: Home Free by Saladin Ahmed, How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger, The Bride was a Boy by chii, Jane City by Fonda Lee, No Time to Spare by Ursula LeGuin, Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland, Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Four Ways to Prepare Your Life for NaNoWriMo

It’s October, meaning we’ve officially entered NaNoWriMo prep month! I will be participating under the name temproaryworlds, so feel free to add me as a buddy if you’d like.

2018 marks my eighth year doing NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where people all around the world vow to write an entire novel (or at least 50,000 words of it) in the month of November. I have won NaNoWriMo every year that I’ve participated, and have, over time created a few habits to help me prepare. Next week, I’ll be sharing how I prep my novel. Today, I’m going to talk about how I get my life in order for optimum chances of success.

Pick a Time to Write– Ideally, this is going to be the same time ever day. If it can’t be, because sometimes schedules are complicated, then try to make it as consistent as possible. Regardless of how you spin it, it’s best to know when you’re writing time is going to be every day, in advance.

The reason behind this? If you just say that you’re going to get those 1,667 words down “sometime today” without planning in advance, it’s a lot easier to procrastinate, or outright forget to do it. Also, this allows you to give your loved ones a heads up, rather than springing it on them at the last moment. This makes it a lot easier for them to respect your writing time.

As for me, I’ll be writing in the morning before work. I know from the past that I need to set aside a solid hour for writing, which (after a few days) will allow me to get roughly 1800 words down. As you can see, I tend to write at a pretty steady clip. Other people may need to schedule in more time. On the weekends, I’ll still be writing in the AM, but do my best to find a little extra time (anywhere from fifteen minutes to a full hour) to allow me to get ahead.

Plan Your Schedule in Advance– Sometime In the first week of October, I will sit down and write out all of my responsibilities through the end of November. This includes Thanksgivings, appointments (it’s about time to hit up the dentist, and the vet), and other predictable responsibilities, such as Christmas shopping. I try and see how many of these responsibilities I can move to October, if possible. Pushing them back a month isn’t usually an option, because the books I write are closer to 100k rather than the standard 50k, so I I’m probably going to run into December.

In doing this, it helps me predict potential problems. For example, I usually go to two Thanksgivings dinners, and this always involves a bit of travel. Does this mean that I’ll have to get up earlier that day to get my writing in? Election day is coming up. Can I save time by voting absentee?

When it comes to scheduling in 50,000 words worth of writing, the main issue for me is less about logistics and more about the mental load. Drafting a new novel can be an exhausting experience, and having to worry about when I can schedule in this or that can ad a lot of stress. Planning out your shit in advance helps to ease that load.

Clean Your House- Welcome to the least glamourous step! Now I’m not saying that you have to scrub the top of your ceiling fans, but when your mind is scrambling for reasons to procrastinate, that pile of stuff on the floor is going to look awfully tempting. Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop dishes from accumulating, and laundry from needing to be folded, but if you can start out in a good place, you’re less likely to find your attention pulled elsewhere. If you can offload some of that housework on other parties, that’s great! But let’s be honest, that’s not realistic for most people. So since I can’t bribe my cats to take care of my floors, we settled for buying a robot vacuum.

Tell People- Okay, I’m not saying that you need to announce that you’re writing a novel to all of your neighbors, but telling those nearest and dearest to you does have it’s benefits. And I say this as someone who’s not hugely share-y about my writing when it comes to people IRL.

For one thing, you have people that can hold you to your word (even if they only ask “how’s that novel going?”). If the people you tell are fellow writers who are participating in NaNo, you can bond or provide to support to each other during the process.

In addition, this is also a good time to let people know that you may not be as readily available as you normally are. You’re probably not going to answer those text message as instantly. You may not be able to drop everything for family and friends if they’re in the habit of showing up at your door, wanting to hang out (FYI- never do this to me. I don’t improvise well).

Writing 50,000 words in one month may sound like an unclimbable mountain, especially during November, which is a busy time of the year for most Americans. But over the years, I’ve found that if I make the effort to stack the odds in my favor in advance, I have been able to find the time and the energy necessary to surpass that word count goal.

So that’s how I prepare my life for NaNoWriMo. Next week I’ll be taking about how I prepare my manuscript, so come back around for that!

Red and Black is a 99 Cent Kindle Countdown Deal

If you’ve visited this blog during the past several months, you probably know all about Red and Black, my superhero novel which came this past August. Since it’s been in the kindle store for at least thirty days, I now have the opportunity to do my first sale. So if you’ve been debating over purchasing it or not, now is the perfect time to take the plunge.

So how does a Kindle Countdown Deal work? Starting today, the Red and Black ebook will be on sale for 99 cents in the US store. This sale will continue for the rest of the week, before going back up to it’s normal cost. The book remains free for kindle unlimited readers.

If you’d like to support the book, consider either buying a copy or spreading a word. I’ll be posting about this on my twitter, Instagram, and goodreads accounts, so retweets or anything similar would be much appreciated.

For those of you who are new to the blog, and would like to learn more about Red and Black before you consider purchasing, check out the summary below:

Dawn Takahashi has been following superheroes for years. So, when she’s granted an impressive powerset of her own, she dives right in, eager to prove herself as Bailey City’s first superhero: Miss Red and Black.

Her first challenge is Faultline. He’s powerful, smart and, as a henchman for Bailey City’s first supervillain, standing right in her way. But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that under the mask, Faultline is Alex Gage, a working class guy trying to scrounge together enough money to help support his younger sisters.

Dawn has no idea that the charming and seemingly straightforward Alex is Faultline. Alex has no idea that the adorably awkward Dawn is the superhero the clashes with at night.

And Dawn and Alex have a date next week.

Balance and Expections: September in Review

September Posts

    1. Blending Genres and Mythical Creatures: Reccomendations for Self Published Fantasy Month
    2. Time for a Change!
    3. An Interview with J.L. Gribble, author of Steel Time
    4. From Big to Small: How I Revise My Writing
    5. Dragons and Inquisitors: What I Read for Self Published Fantasy Month

Looking for more content? Then check out these posts I contributed to for the fanzine, Speculative Chic in September

  1. Roundtable: Let’s Get Musical (Group Post)
  2. Kara Zor-El, Super Teen- A Review of Supergirl: Being Super (Solo Post)

Phew. August was quite a month. I published Red and Black, submitted Red and Black 2 to my beta readers, and put quite a few hours into revising my NaNoWriMo draft of Red and Black 3. After all that, I thought that September should be a breeze.

Which kind of makes me a dummy. Because seriously, when am I not attempting to juggle half a dozen things?

My biggest challenges this month can be boiled down to two things: balance and expectations. The balance challenge has a lot to do with getting my writing, blogging, and other publishing responsibilities done while not rejecting my other priorities. And over those past months those priorities can be divided into three categories: day to day (including boring stuff like exercise and housework), my day job (which has been busier than normal), and BIG. LIFE. EVENTS.

Fortunately, I’ve been on the fringes of said live events, rather than the middle of them. At the tail end of August, my sister in law gave birth to her first child (and my first niece!). Unfortunately, there were some complications, resulting in the baby still being in the hospital, over a month later. Things were uncertain for a little while (so uncertain that I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning the event in my August reflections), but while some days can be challenging, I honestly feel that we’re moving into a more positive space.

On top of that, I attended a wedding for one of my friends, and a wedding shower for my brother. Both events involved quite a bit of driving, but I honestly found the emotional stress (especially combined with everting else) to be more of a challenge than pure logistics. I can figure out how to schedule my writing around a weekend wedding, the social expectations that come with large (and even not so large) gatherings are another thing all together. Both my husband and I are introverts, making post-celebration recovery time a must.

This challenge of balance has led to me reaching for a lot of comforting things in September, whether they be superhero comics, chocolate cheesecake, or episodes of The Great British Bakeoff (a new favorite in my household). Clearly, I’m not up for tackling anything super strenuous.

On the writing side of things, we have the challenge of expectations, because Red and Black has not been as successful at reaching readers as I had hoped for. Now that we’ve past the initial launch and my friends/family have all purchased their copies, I’ve noticed a huge drop off in sales. And I’d be a liar if I didn’t own up to the fact that there have been days when this has frustrated the hell out of me. There are people who say that they enjoyed having had written more than the writing itself. And while this isn’t necessarily the same for me, I assumed that it would be true for the publishing process. But during pre-publication, there is the glossy veneer of potential. Post publication, there’s just the uncomfortable feeling that you’ve fallen short.

So, I’m going to do something about it! On October 1st, I will be running a Kindle Countdown deal, which allows you to discount your book for a short period of time. Once the countdown goes into effect, I will be promoting it here, and social media- so if you see me mention it on twitter- an RT would be much appreciated. I have also purchased an ad with Bargain Booksy. So even though I won’t make all that much money on a 99 cent ebook, I hope the allure of the sale will convince a few more readers (and reviewers!).

One area that has pretty much met my expectations this month is the fact that I haven’t heard back from any of my beta readers yet in regards to Red and Black 2. Hopefully, now that we’ve gotten past the busy back to school season, some of them will find the time to dig in.

Speaking of expectations, something that has continued to exceed them are my revisions of Red and Black 3, as I have never edited a book so quickly before, something that I considering to be in large part due to my new outlining method. I hope to have the revisions for this book done by October 10th, and then shift my attentions over to preparing for this years NaNoWriMo Let’s see how successfully I can juggle that.

Monthly Goals- September

Speaking of balance and expectations, I did fall short of last months goals when it comes to researching amazon and facebook ads. But this was mostly a conscious decision. The market for amazon ads has become quite competitive as of late, and dumping too much money into said ads for me isn’t likely to benefit me until I can scrounge together a few more reviews (at least ten).

Here are my goals for September

  1. Writing– Finish second draft of Red and Black 3
  2. NaNo Prep- Dedicate 20 hours to preparing for NaNoWriMo (this will be Red and Black 4, if all goes to plan).
  3. NaNo Prep– Re-read Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k.
  4. Publishing– Run Kindle Countdown deal from Oct 1st-7th.
  5. Blogging– Write at least five entries for this blog, and two for Speculative Chic

And there we go! Here’s hoping I can keep the balancing act up next month.

Dragons and Inquisitors: What I Read for Self Published Fantasy Month

We’ve reached the end of September which also means that we’ve reached the end of Self Published Fantasy Month! So why don’t we dig into some reviews?

This past month I read four works of self published fantasy. The first three novellas in the Dragon School Series (First Flight, Initiate, and The Dark Prince) by Sarah K.L. Wilson, and Eye of Truth, the first book in Lindsay Buroker’s Agents of the Crown Series. The reviews can be found below.

Dragon School: First Flight, Dragon School: Initiate, and Dragon School: The Dark Prince by Sarah K.L. Wilson

In Amel Leafbough’s world, anyone can fly, but only if they’re up for the dangerous life of a Dragon Rider. Amel desperately wants to become a rider, despite the fact that, unlike her peers, she is both poor and disabled. Her classmates may treat her with disdain, but she is not alone. The dragon Raolcan is on her side. Can she prove that she’s worthy of being his Rider?

I picked up the Dragon Rider series for a number of reasons. As someone who grew up reading The Harry Potter Series, and the Song of the Lioness Quartet, I have a fondness for fantasy books in a school-like settings. In addition, I’ve really gotten into serialized fiction over the past year or so. Add in some badass dragons, and I knew I couldn’t skip this one.

First Flight is a strong jumping off point, mostly due to the strength of the character Amel. The odds are stacked against her from the start. She doesn’t have the same level of knowledge that some of her richer classmates have, and the school itself, which emphasizes crossing vertical spaces through the use of ladders, seems purposely structured against her disability (a lifelong injury to her leg). But while this may frustrate her, it doesn’t stop her on her quest to become a Dragon Rider.

Amel’s relationship with her dragon Raolcan hit all the right nostalgia notes for me, reminding me of the Companions from the Heralds of Valdemar series. Through her conversations with Raolcan, Amel was able to gain some important perspectives on the plight of dragons. You really have to wonder. If dragons are sapient beings, then isn’t forcing them to bond with humans and become their riders a form of slavery?

Unfortunately, the further I got into the series, the less enamored I became. Some of this is purely a personal preference. I was really looking forward to a school story, and we end up leaving the school behind in the second novella, Initiate.

But the biggest issue I had is rooted in pacing. The series zips right along at a very fast clip. That can be fun, but it also means that not enough time is spent on character development. Relationships rarely feel as if they develop organically. They just level up when the plot requires it. For example, there is a character that Amel meets in the first novella. At first, she is emotionally distant. By the second and third novella, we’re suddenly lead to believe that the two of them are great friends. As we never really saw this happen, this felt forced. Combine this lack of character development with the large cast, and the characters themselves start to run together and feel the same by the time you get to The Dark Prince. The writing can also be a bit clunky, which I honestly wouldn’t have minded as much if the characters were handled with more finesse.

Admittedly, I am talking about only three novellas into what’s become a very long serial (the eighteenth novella comes out next month), so perhaps some of these issues are ironed out later.

Dragon School is an incredibly popular series. With almost three hundred reviews on the first novella alone on amazon, it’s clear that Amel’s story has struck a chord with a lot of readers. But even though I enjoyed aspects of it, the further I progressed through this serial, the less it worked for me.

Eye of Truth by Lindsay Buroker

Zenia Cham is an Inquisitor for the Water Temple. But even though her Dragon’s Tear amulet gives her the power to compel people to obey her, she may have bitten off more than she can chew with Jev Darrow. The former solider has just returned from a decade at war, and is said to have stolen a precious artifact known as the Eye of Truth. Zenia has been sent to retrieve this artifact. Unfortunately, Jev has no idea what’s she’s talking about.

Eye of Truth is the first book in the Agents of the Crown series, which mixes Sword and Sorcery elements with a mystery narrative. The result is a lot fun. Banter-filled dialog, plenty of action sequences, and steamy romance keep the story moving at a breezy pace, while the characters themselves keep you emotionally invested. Zenia is a driven individual who has dedicated her life to her position at the Water Temple, while Jev is a wealthy noblemen who has just spent the prime of his life fighting a war he doesn’t believe in. Their pasts provide interesting contrasts and commonalties, which results in a rather nice romantic tension.

While it does have it’s more serious moments (especially when getting into Zenia’s parentage or Jev’s time as a solider) the focus here is more lighthearted. Admittedly, the humor is pretty quirky, and sometimes so frank that it shocked me right out of the story. But, even though all of the jokes didn’t work for me, I still had a fun time with this one. It’s a strong selection if you like classic dwarves and elves style fantasy, or enjoy a healthy dose of romance with your adventure stories. I will be checking out the second book in this series, Blood Ties.


So there you go! I honestly had hoped to read a more self published fantasy books this month, but I think I did well, over all. Both Sarah K.L. Wilson and Lindsay Buroker were new authors for me, and as someone who could be a little better about wandering outside of her comfort zone, I felt like this was worth it all by itself. I really enjoyed participating in Self Published Fantasy month, and would totally be up for it again. Check out all of my posts here.