Monday, March 14, 2016

Review: The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition

Review: The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition
By Peter Orullian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon Blurb
In a debut that is sure to attract enormous attention, the first novel of The Vault of Heaven takes us to a world of wonders and terrors, where an ancient evil threatens to break out of the bounds that have contained it for generations. When the gods created the world, one created monstrous creatures so powerful that he was doomed to live for eternity in the proscribed Bourne where his most odious creations were to be held, kept from the rest of the world by a magical veil that they could not breach.

Millennia passed, and the veil weakened. The people who inhabit the world know little of the terrible danger that lurks in the Bourne. When creatures begin to escape and prey upon isolated villages, news of their predations is treated as mere rumor. But those who stand against evil have seen the signs of the weakening of the veil and know that only drastic measures will prevent a devastating invasion. Tahn Junell is a hunter blissfully unaware of the dark forces that imperil in the world. Then two strangers - an imperious man who wears the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far - come to the Hollows, urging Tahn, his sister, and his two best friends to leave. They will not say why, but the journey upon which they embark will change Tahn's life...and the world...forever.

The Good
I'm not sure what changed in the Author's Definitive Edition, but I have to say this edition of, The Unremembered, is epic fantasy at its best! The only thing I can possibly imagine is that, as a debut author, Peter Orullian had more awesomeness to put in.

Well, it worked.

The story really drew me in, making a 24 hour audiobook slip-by like I was reading a middle-grade chapter book. The characters and worldbuilding easily rival Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson, so much so that I picked up the second book, Trial of Intentions, right after I finished this one. Great attention to detail (in all aspects of the world) and likable characters that were fully engaging.

Like all well crafted stories, when your mind continues chewing on your own imaginings of the fictional world, you know you've hit pay-dirt. I was intrigued by the lore of the world and the various sentient species kept me wondering about deeper aspects of the story.

The Bad
Like most epic fantasy, the first few chapters are a serious chore to chew through. The worldbuilding is rich and intriguing, but takes a bit for your brain to shift into the books world. However, once mine did, I was hooked.

Audio Version
Peter Ganim did the audio narration. His narration is good, but I wasn't blown away.

The Spin
If you like epic fantasy with immersive worlds like Patrick Rothfuss' or Brandon Sanderson's, you'll love The Unremembered. It's a read well worth your time and money.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Writer's Confessional

This was a great week for my writing. I worked on my writing during all my breaks at work and a majority of the day on my day off. The only downside to my writing week was a LOT of overtime at my day (night) job. This killed the hours I normally come home and write.

Still, I'm doing more writing than I have in a long time.

One question... Is rewriting considered writing?

I know it's not 'new' words, although in a lot of cases they are. (The first draft was pretty rough in places.) I've been wondering whether I'm hurting myself by not crafting new stories WHILE I'm rewriting my old story.

Of course with the time I have, its probably better if I keep plugging along on what I'm doing. And naturally, any work is a step in the right direction.

And somehow this week I created another conflicted copy of my story. Most of the changes are in the conflicted copy this time, so it's obvious I have NO idea what I'm doing.

What were your writerly sins last week?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Bonnie Wee Laddie

All my life I've loved Scottish Terriers. I love their tall ears, the way their chest juts forward, and their handsome beards and kilts.

Thirteen years ago, I was working for a printing company. I mentioned to one of my coworkers that I loved Scotties and he proudly told me that his mother bred them. She sold them for about $500, which was a lot for us then. But knowing my lifelong dream to own one, my wife suggested we get one for Christmas. The kids would be ecstatic. Plans were all set for us to drive down Christmas day and pick up my new puppy.

Then we woke to a white Christmas.

A serious white Christmas.

Still, a bonnie Scottie was waiting for me so I went out to shovel the falling stone. Before I'd finished the driveway, another inch lay where I'd already shoveled. My wife came out and gave me a look that signaled apology and disappointment. If the snow was this bad in the valleys, the two canyons we'd need to drive through would be impossible.

I called the breeder to let her know we'd have to wait another day.

Still, the wait was worth it.

The next day, I was the proud owner of a bonnie wee laddie. I named him Mctavish Fritz Stewart.

Mctavish was a dog typical to his breed. He had no problem getting dogs twice his size to back down. He could exploit the tiniest holes in a fence and roam the neighborhood, cavorting with the ladies and eating unattended dog food. For all his faults, I loved him dearly.

I had plans to enter him in Earthdog trials, but to do so, we'd have to visit neighboring states several times a year. That dream never came to pass.

Ten years later, Mctavish developed a skin condition the vet said was allergies. Hair began falling out. His ears occasionally filled with pockets of blood. Once proud ears shriveled into cauliflower ears. Ear infections made him stink. Almost completely bald now, I worried that his time in this world was nearing its end.

I heard a commercial for Dinovite that promised help for problems with dogs with stinky/itchy dogs losing their hair. So we tried it, and it worked! Mostly... His hair almost completely grew back, but his ear infections got worse. They were just too far gone.

His eyesight began to deteriorate in addition to his hearing. It wasn't hard to surprise him. He began having difficulties climbing the stairs. His bathroom breaks became unpredictable. By now, Mctavish, loving nicknamed Tavy by my dad, was thirteen years old.

Then, one weekend, he began pacing. He didn't want to lay down. He would walk through the house, stop for a bit, then keep walking. He would occasionally take naps with his head against a chair or wall. If we carried him to his basket, he'd collapse into a deep sleep. Worst of all he only drank water. He'd push food away, drinking any water within sight.

I made the decision several weeks later to put him to sleep. Maybe I should have done it sooner. Maybe I did it too soon. My writers mind cataloged the vets procedure and minute details of my families greving in case I needed it for later use. My spiritual mind imagined him running through heavenly fields of clover. My philosopher noticed how tissues filled with tears were dry several hours later.

All I know, a little over a week later, is that I'll miss him and I'll never own another Scottie in my life.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Writer's Confessional

My writerly failings this week were not overly sinful, just a major pain. You see, OpenOffice saves
your document, but DropBox doesn't upload your edited file until you close the file in OpenOffice.

I had a great writing day on Monday, plowing through several chapters of rewrites. What my major sin was, was heading to the kitchen for a break and never coming back. Instead I thought I had earned a little XBox time. I haven't played in weeks, so why not?

So my snack break, turned into a six-hour Fallout marathon that ended with my sleepy head closing my 'saved' laptop.

What this did was create a 'conflicted' copy of my story. So now I have two copies of my story: one with the chapters I'd been working on, and one with the additions I wrote the next day.

Now I have two files I need to find changes in, and make one completed copy.

Forgive me for I have sinned.

What were your writerly sins this week?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Glory of Redemption

Everyone loves a redemption story. From Samson in the Bible, to Darth Vader or Scarlett O'Hara, all of us likes it when bad guys turn good. Even 'Bad Boy' characters have a rubbing off of their rough edges, making them more human.

What is it that makes these stories so appealing?

I think it comes from the very human reality of knowing that we all make mistakes. At some point, we'll screw up and want a chance for a do-over. A mulligan. A chance for someone to pat us on the back and good-naturedly say, 'Huh. That kinda sucked. That one didn't count. Give it another shot.'

One of this summer's major blockbusters surrounds the conflict that arises from a redemption story.

"But wait," you say. "You just said people love redemption stories."

That's right, but after the bad guy turns good, there's still the subject of PAYING for all the terrible things he did making that grab for power.

Bucky Barnes and Captain America
Captain America: Civil War (at least according to the trailers) begins after Captain America has spent unlimited energy redeeming his lovable old friend, Bucky Barnes. See, Captain America and Bucky lost track of each other during World War II, but collided later when Hydra turns Bucky into an assassin (Captain America: Winter Soldier).

So now, Bucky is saved.


Unfortunately, Bucky was a bad guy. He's killed a lot of people. He's done a lot of bad things. And most legal systems still require a degree of justice be met for all the havoc bad guys cause. You wouldn't want Bucky to just go free, right?


But he was brainwashed? He's changed his ways? Think of it this way, if Adolf Hitler had been brainwashed, had a sudden change of conscience, should he be allowed to go free?

These gray areas and moral dilemmas are the spaces where writers thrive and where audiences love to be. What's gonna happen? Will the newly redeemed be shown mercy? Will mercy rob justice? Can the good guy, who was the bad guy, show the sincerity of his actions? Even if he succeeds, will he pay for his actions, as in the film Sommersby?

The story possibilities are infinite.

And So...
How are you using redemption in your stories?
What is your favorite redemption story?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Morning Star

Review: Morning Star

By Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon Blurb
Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

The Good
The amazing characters of the Red Rising series finally arrive--bruised and bloody--to book three: Morning Star.

Pierce Brown doesn't sugar coat or coddle his characters. He kicks them in the teeth before stabbing them in the kidney. Heroes and villains alike act honestly to their true motivations, even admitting that they might be wrong, but making their choices anyway. Difficult choices in a dangerous world.

Pierce's villains also have this amazing ability to actually out-think the heroes, and when they do, its harsh.

The Bad
Book three of the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, had the same difficulties that Morning Star had: combat fatigue.

I DO NOT think that this was a problem, but it does give readers the same weariness the characters are experiencing. Morning Star and Mockingjay both present the final battles of a very intense series. Most people thought Mockingjay fell flat because of Katniss' mental unraveling at the end, but I felt it was honest. Similarly, Morning Star doesn't hold any punches and brutalizes the characters through the final resolution.

After finishing it, I felt like I needed combat decompression.

And that's a hell of an experience.

Audio Version
Tim Gerard Reynolds was the best choice for narrator they could have made. His performance of each character is flawless. Loved every minute of his presentation.

The Spin
Morning Star completes the Red Rising series in epic fashion. Pierce Brown is a master of complex characters, tight plotting, and no-holds-barred storytelling. If you're looking for a gritty fixation after the Hunger Games, pick up this series. It's a 'can't miss.'

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