Rest in Peace Frith

Today, the literary world lost Richard Adams, author of many books, but one of my all-time favorites: Watership Down.

2016 has been a tough year in terms of celebrity deaths because many of those who passed were creators of important aspects of my life. Bowie and Prince’s music, Rickman and Wilder’s film characters, Ali and Palmer’s sport heroics, but it was Richard Adams’ novel about a group of rabbits seeking out a new home that truly changed my life.

It is difficult to put into word what one single book did for my life, but it boils down to this; if I had never read Watership Down as a child, I don’t think I would have been as fascinated or devoted to reading. His story about Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver and the others was what entranced a young child into the world of literature. Those characters taught me how to never give up, to think, to be a friend, to seek answers and above all, to live each day as it might be your last. Mr. Adams story has always stood with me as I grew up and it truly saddens me to learn of his passing. I have never met the man and have not followed his works as well as I probably should have, but I know that that one book is what gave me my drive in the literary world. He shaped my excitement and my wonder. I will be forever grateful to have read such a wonderful piece of fiction.

Rest in peace Mr. Adams and thank you for inspiring me.raf750x1000075t322e3f-696a94a5d4

What I’ve Read: The First Law Trilogy

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This is my first book review since I have launched this website. All of the reviews moving forward will be only my opinions on the story as well as a brief overview (spoiler-free of course), so don’t hate me if you disagree with me

I just finished the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie and instead of writing them individually, I wanted to put them all together and the reason for that is because each book bleeds into the next without a true conclusion.

Brief Summary:

Told through multiple POVs, the story revolves around a kingdom that is beset by war on multiple fronts and it is up to a group of rag-tag heroes to stop it. From all walks of life, there is the barbarian, the wizard, the young pup, the apprentice, the soldier, the cripple and the crazy one (think Breakfast Club meets Sesame Street). Each of these characters is drawn into the battle for the kingdom, whether they want to be or not. The wizard is ancient and has the means to stop the war and conscripts many of the POVs in help finding it, while the others face overwhelming odds and strange alliances. It all boils down to who has the bigger magic.

In truth, the plot is straightforward for some characters (the journey and return) and the fight against their fellow man. There is a lot of political maneuvering and discussion since the king dies and he has no living heir. There is a detailed description of a fencing tournament for the young pup which takes up majority of the first book. The second book is mostly about the journey to find said magic as well as the war now being started. The final book ends the conflict, but continues well after the fact to set up the new king/regime.

The Good:

I liked Mr. Abercrombie’s writing style. It is quickly paced and easy to read, pretty much read all three books in two weeks. The characters are not typical stereotypes as he has a cripple anti-hero that is gripping. Glotka was a very interesting character study on how war can affect a person that is not always seen as heroic.

The peoples and places were well thought and detailed. It made for interesting character decisions, mostly in terms of the non-typical heroes. Logen Ninefingers and Ferro were complete opposites, but that was due to their detailed backstories and life journeys. They aren’t the typical heroes we always see in fantasy as they both have very deep flaws. Their romance wasn’t long and drawn out and they didn’t end up together in the end, so that was refreshing.

The action and battle scenes were well done and engaging. Logen’s berserk into the Bloody Nine was awesome and terrifying to read because you never knew what would happen. But the scenes were not long for the sake of having action, but were well-paced and to the point.

The Bad:

The lack of true climaxes in the books are a let down. Feels almost like going on this long car ride only to realize we went in a giant circle. The characters don’t really grow along the journey, especially Jezal (who, by the way was a terribly annoying character).

The same can be said about Glotka’s plot in the second book (or the entire second volume). He goes somewhere, has some things happen to him and then goes back home. It wasn’t all that necessary.

The twists were fairly easy to spot and it left a lot to be desired on the wizard’s backstory.

Rating:

2.5 out of 5

The writing process: The Query(ing) game

typewriter-1144164-639x426The Query – the dreaded next step from actually writing the story, manuscript, novel to getting it to the masses for consumption. To be able to share your story with the world, you have to first get it into the hands of someone in the industry who could make it happen. It is a difficult step for an author, especially new authors.

Whether you want to have your finished work published via traditional markets, e-books, Print on Demand or in journals/magazines, you need to Query. Querying can come in the form of a letter to an agent or publisher, but it is basically a pitch of your story to someone who has no idea what you have written. As many authors soon come to find out, it is harder to do a proper query than it is to write the book or story. And the pitch is not a step-by-step covering of your plot, it is a hook to grab the reader’s attention so they become interested in your book. The hook is nearly similar to what you would commonly see on the book jacket – it is the few sentences that either interest you or make you put it down.

For myself, it was a long arduous learning curve that I am still trying to master. When I first wrote my original book, my Query was shock full of mistakes. And those mistakes still carried over to the contemporary thriller, but where my fantasy failed, my thriller succeeded and I chalk that up to the market and genre. The point is, what works for one, does not work for another – and that goes especially true for agents.

Agents are people and they have their own tastes and wants. As an author, I forget that from time to time when I get a rejection or don’t hear anything. Agents have to be interested in the story, otherwise they are just wasting their time, which is as important to them as it is to you.

The same goes for the Query letter itself. I have gone to workshops and done webinars and bootcamps and learned one thing – everyone’s idea of a good query letter is different. Some agents want and expect one style, while another says something different. It is a difficult path to travel for authors because we think it should be easy since we wrote a full story – but we are wrong more often than not. While many agents follow a similar pattern, it is really pertinent to tailor each Query to the specific agent or publisher (even though most publishers want agent submissions, not unsolicited). It is good to have a stock letter, but to alter it each time with different tweaks to meet the agent’s needs/wants. It is good to have a solid few points to touch on from the plot, but make it fluid enough to alter if needed.

For example, in my story, I have an LGBTQ main character while also discussing a different take on religion in the future. In my basic letter, I don’t mention either because I know what type of hot topics those can become. But as I research different agents, I will add those parts if they mention they are drawn to that particular thing or if they want to see different perspectives. It is all about playing to the wants of an agent, but also not lying about your storyline. Not all agents request a Synopsis (another difficult piece to do for authors – keeping it one page, come on, that is super hard for us wordsmiths!), but that doesn’t mean you should exclude those things in the Synopsis. The Query and the Synopsis are two different animals and though I might not mention sexuality or religion in every Query, they are both in my Synopsis because they are integral to the overall plot.

With all that said, I am still trying to find representation for my novels. I have four completed books that are ready for the next step and it is up to me to persevere to get them to see the light of day. The query process might eventually be longer than it took me to actually write the books, but that is where a writer becomes an author.

Rejection is part of the game and you have to not take it personal. At first, I took it personal whenever I received a rejection, but I was younger and new to the process. Now, I look at it as part of the overall process. Querying is like taking a piece of you and putting it out there, it can be shot down and it does hurt, but like all things, to succeed, you have to push through. I know that there is someone out there who will fall in love with what I have written and it is up to me to find that person. If it takes me 1000 rejections to find that one who will take me to the next step, I will continue on (hopefully it doesn’t take that long!) with gusto and determination. That is the great thing about writing, it allows you to pour your heart on the page and let others into your world. I wouldn’t want to waste all that time I spent on writing it to just let it sit there and not be seen because a few people didn’t connect with it.

Interestingly enough, the day before writing this post, I participated in a Twitter pitch for my series. At first I thought it was even more difficult to condense the query down to 140 characters, but after the first few, it seemed easier for some strange reason. Social Media has changed the game, even from 2007 when I started the process. It has opened up new avenues for writers, created a larger community for us to get out there. I love it and truly enjoy interacting with others like me, other dreamers.

Dream on my friends and don’t give up on those dreams. I know I won’t. One day, the Dies Irae will be available for Fantasy Readers.

Saying Goodbye – on finishing the series

farewell-1531953-639x488Just this past weekend, I put the final touches on the Phoenix Rebirth, the last book of the Dies Irae Cycle. Let me just say that when I wrote the epilogue chapter, it gave me all the feels. I had waited to write this chapter until I did many rounds of edits because I knew that it was going to hit me that it was done.

I first conceived the story for the first book in 2005 and started writing it while still being a college kid. I knew what I wanted this first book to be, but I didn’t have the greatest plan of how I wanted the entire series to go. It wasn’t until 2014 that I knew what direction the series would go and how I wanted it to end. It was around that time when I added Hunter as a character and her love story with Brynn. It was when I changed the overall story and the setting. I would call that my turning point – the burning grow within me to actually sit down and write.

It is nearly the end of 2016 and I can say that I am proud with, not only the story, but my enthusiasm for the project. I had to re-write the first book and I also had part of book two written before said turning point, but in the past two years, I have written nearly three full books (2 in this year alone!). And that is an amazing feat to accomplish. Writing isn’t easy, but because I had a great story to tell, it wasn’t all that hard. I would churn out a chapter of 3,000 words+ in a day when I was on my game. Overall, my four books are 481,000 words with 16 Points of View characters – 14 of which have at least five or more chapters in their arc.

I know I am not done with the world of the Dies Irae because I am going full out in trying to find an agent or publisher (or self-publish if those don’t pan out) because I want to share my work with the world – whether it goes to small or large audiences. With that will come more edits, but for the time being, I know my story is done and that makes me somewhat sad. I spent many years with these characters and it is like my wife said, it is like saying goodbye to old friends.

So I saved that last chapter until I felt ready to say goodbye. Letting go of Brynn, Finn, Ashe and Hunter was an emotional moment. Those four characters were good friends, trusted allies and exceptional individuals. It saddens me to know that I am leaving them where they belong in their journeys, but I know they pushed me to tell their stories. That last chapter was tough to write, but I ended on a high note (while also setting up future stories with their descendants!) with them, especially Brynn and Hunter, whose love was not only amazing, but also tinged with tragedy.

With those final words between Brynn and Hunter now written, I can finally say goodbye to them and know that they are where they ought to be. As for me, I am meeting all new friends for the next journey in a new and different world.