Writer’s League of Texas 2017 Conference

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This upcoming weekend is the 2017 version of the Writer’s League of Texas Agents and Editors conference. A yearly event bringing professionals from the industry together.

For me, this is my first ever writing conference. I am both nervous and excited. When I first moved to Texas last year, I was amazed to find this writing group. People from all over the state are part of this group and I think it is an awesome way to bring aspiring authors together.

I am eager to learn what the craft/business sessions have to offer. I want to connect with other authors that are going through the same growing pains I am. To be able to meet others that have the same passions as I do will be a good thing for me.

Sure I will be there to pitch my stories to potential agents, but this whole weekend is more about learning and growth. I know I don’t know enough and this weekend will help me put some of those puzzle pieces together.

Look for a full recap of the weekend next week. If there are people going to this event, I would love to meet up!

What I’ve Read: Legacy of Kings

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Legacy of Kings by C.S. Friedman. Book three of the Magister Trilogy.

Brief Summary:

The Souleaters have fully returned, though they can be stopped. All the heroes need to do is kill the two queens. The magisters finally come together to help each other. The Witch Queen becomes the villain and Kamala finally decides to show herself as a magister. The priestly king does his part to end the war and his mother becomes the great protector she was meant to become.

What works:

Unlike book 2, this one actually had a strong plot and build-up. The pace continued to be strong, but unlike the previous book with the meandering plot, this one was nearly straightforward.

Kamala stopped being annoying. Colivar revealed his history, which was awesome to see someone from the other side of the Wrath. The Witch Queen was fun. The protector queen was interesting too, wanting to become a warrior by allowing a magister to transform her body (happened in book 2, but trained with the changes in this book).

I thought the overall ending was satisfying as a whole. I think some was lacking in places, but overall I liked it.

What doesn’t work:

Kamala moving onto another man…

One complaint I had was that too many people were way too powerful. The Witch Queen, the magisters, just seemed like nothing had a cost anymore. They could do whatever they wanted.

Rating:

3 out of 5

Overall, this trilogy had a great premise and interesting magic system. However, it didn’t do it for me. I liked it enough to read them all and tell others to read them, but it didn’t wow me.

What I’ve Read: Wings of Wrath

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Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman. Book two of the Magister Trilogy

Brief Summary:

Picking up directly after Feast of Souls, the world is aware now of the return of the Souleaters. These giant dragonfly like creatures come from the north behind the ancient barrier known as the Wrath. The king and prince are dead so the remaining son must come back to claim the throne, however, he became a devout priest/monk. The queen and her brother must fight the politics of the north to see if the Wrath is truly failing. And the magisters argue and plot still, with Kamala the first female magister only known to one of the brethren. But they all have to come together to stop the Souleaters.

What works:

The pacing of the first books still is strong. And the characters are a bit more fleshed out in this book.

The Witch Queen is a fun character in this book. Her learning that she is finally dying and finding a way to avoid it is a good refreshing plot.

I also like the character of Rhys, the half-brother of the queen. His fierce fall from grace was awesome and wasn’t seen coming. I liked him and how he had to deal with the loss of his religion.

What doesn’t work:

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book too much overall. Kamala annoyed the crap out of me too many times to count. I liked her character in the first book, but as a protagonist, I lost interest in her story. Many times I skimmed her chapters. She didn’t bring anything to the story for me. Also, her sleeping with Rhys was too much for me. She was this somewhat damaged character in the first book and now she just flings her body around too easily here.

While the whole first book focused on the cost of using magic in this world, this book started to throw it away. The magisters can do anything they want and they no longer care about their consorts. I get it, immortal beings would stop caring after awhile, but I wish Ms. Friedman would have made Kamala struggle with it for much longer than she did. I didn’t like it.

Finally, the climax came about way too quick. There was very little build-up to what the actual plot was supposed to be and then it just kinda happened. I don’t like stories that don’t have a constant build toward the end. This isn’t Game of Thrones where the build-up is the political tension. This story was supposed to be about the Souleaters returning, but there was more about other plots and things that the end just came way to fast.

Rating:

2 out of 5

What I’ve Watched: Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman by Patty Jenkins & Zack Synder. My first movie review for this site will be of the DC Comics Universe film.

Brief Summary:

Introduced into the movieverse in Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman gets her own spin-off/origin story. With the current craze of superhero movies, this was bound to happen. Picking up from a thread in the BvS movie, Diana Prince in present day receives a gift from Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) in the form of an original photograph of her and some unknown men in WWI attire. From there, the viewer is brought back into Diana’s memories as a child living among her Amazon family (yes those mythical Amazon women of great strength and ardor!) Diana’s mother doesn’t want her to train to be a warrior, but her aunt begins to train her in secret. The reason is that the Amazons are the only ones who can defeat the second-coming of Ares, the God of War. Montage happens and it is then we are introduced to Steve, an American spy, who magically comes into the island of the Amazons. Followed by Germans, Diana and the Amazons are pulled into the world against their wishes. Diana leaves with Steve with the idea that she is meant to fight Ares and stop the great war. Normal superhero movie stuff happens and people die, the hero has moments of disillusion, but eventually beats the bad guy.

What works:

Who doesn’t want to see a kick-ass Amazon on the big screen??? I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want that? The mythos of the Amazons are a font waiting to be mined. I studied Archaeology and the Amazons are a gift that should have seen more screen time in movie history.

Diana’s Wonder Woman is such a nuanced character that Gal Gadot was perfection playing her. There is the level of bad-ass and nurturer within Gadot’s performance that is the essence of Diana. She will fight for what is right, but also doesn’t want to fight just to fight. But as all heroes must overcome, Diana had to justify her actions to herself, whether her belief was right or wrong. Gal Gadot stole the show in that regard.

Unlike most superhero movies, this movie had a relatively light tone, even against the backdrop of WWI. The rapport between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine made the characters feel real and life-like like no other superhero movie since The Dark Knight. The stakes were high, but they never felt like it was world-breaking, only high for the main characters, which was a breath of fresh air in the DCU or MCU. I enjoyed the smaller personal stakes vs the world stakes. Yes it was there with Ares, but it wasn’t the sole focus of the film.

I enjoyed the way Diana views war in general. She is a warrior, but she doesn’t want to fight for the sake of fighting, she wants peace and fights because she has to. I thought it was a good metaphor for WWI in general. People were drawn into that war only because they had to (and I’m not just speaking toward America here). The world had shifted at that time and a great calamity had come to the world, but many fought because they had to. I liked how the movie paralleled that motif on a personal level.

The casting was spot-on and I thought the movie worked well with the dialogue, the practicality of a superhero/goddess in the midst of early 20th century Europe, the pacing, the plot overall and the climax.

What doesn’t work:

Too much slow motion! I can’t stress enough how this took me out of the film. Way too much of the slow motion in the fights from the very first moment. I don’t like that type of visual story-telling. I can deal with it in bits, but this was way too much.

Also, way too much of Diana’s hair blowing in the wind during the slow motion. It was like a music video of a pop singer.

I understand that Diana’s whole thing is love conquers all, but I felt it was too rushed and a bit heavy-handed with the addition of her and Steve having sex. I thought the whole scene of them dancing was amazing and they could have shared a kiss then and there. I didn’t need the next scene. It just didn’t fit for me in the scheme of things.

Was it me or did Ares look like he stepped out of a Skyrim commerical??

Rating:

4.5 out of 5.

Definitely the best movie of the DCU by far. I think the direction of the character is amazing and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Diana’s Wonder Woman.

What I’ve Read: Feast of Souls

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Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman is the first book of the Magister Trilogy. The thing about this series is showing how using magic costs something. In many fantasy worlds, there are limitations and rules for magic systems and this one is one of the most draining – literally. The magic system relies on the cost of life. To use magic is to drain life from the user, unless you are a magister that is. Magisters use the life of others for their magic.

Brief Summary:

Against the above backdrop of cost of life for magic the series starts out with a very interesting thought. However, these magisters are all male and long-lived, thus they quarrel and don’t trust each other. Witches, both male and female, will use their life to make their way in life, though they know they will die. The series starts with a young girl who goes with her mother to a witch and sees the witch spend the remaining life in her to save her brother. This girl grows up to want to become a magister. She trains, she learns and she becomes the first female magister. In the world of magisters, they use other people’s life for their magic, becoming a consort to the magister. Well we couldn’t just have a simple story, could we? No, the first consort of the female magister, Kamala, is none other than the favored son of a king. Andovan then goes to seek out the source of his mysterious illness. Behind all of this, there is a magister trying to discover things, a king corrupted by an ancient being of soul-suckers from the north, the queen who would fight it, and a witch queen.

What works:

This story moves very fast and is easy to read. If given the proper time to sit down and read, one could finish this story in a few short days. The pace never stops and it is so well written in terms of word choices and grammar, that most can breeze through it.

The magic cost system starts out fantastic. Andovan’s illness is awesome and having him randomly fall victim to the wasting is great in moments of tense scenes, where his strength and certain victory is normally assured.

Kamala, the female magister is a great character. She is driven and seeks to become the first female magister. She just wants the power. She schemes and does things that a strong female character should do in this book. Just like what a man would do.

Coliver, the other main magister, is such a veiled character that it made me want more of his scenes. You never truly knew what he was up to and I loved that as a reader. Just enough glimpses to want more.

The characters listed above were the main driving point of the story. Yes there were some missteps (see below), but these three were so enjoyable that it made the plodding plot and side-stories worthwhile.

What doesn’t work:

Let’s just say this and keep it simple: The magic system is awesome, but then it peters out so quickly in terms of what could be. The price of life is built up so much early on, but once Kamala starts to grow, that cost looses its appeal. There is so much tension once Kamala and Andovan meet, but I think it was fumbled. This only gets worse in the next two books that it becomes disappointing.

As much as I loved Kamala as a character (again more of this in books 2 & 3), but her constant remembrance of her life as a child whore does not ring the right cord as it should. It is huge backstory, but I felt that there were multiple times that she used it for silly reasons. It didn’t hit the mark that I’m sure Ms. Friedman wanted…Also, Kamala, for all her tortured history of a child whore, she sure has no problem using her sex to get things. Seemed out of character to me.

This books was published in 2007 and I have no doubt that Ms. Friedman is a wonderful writer, she told a great story here. But that said, the use of adjectives for a person’s spoken dialogue is a huge error in my humble opinion. Gravely, quietly, slightly, coldly, curtly, inwardly appeared in so many conversations that I started to roll my eyes each time I saw them.

One other thing I didn’t like too much was the way some chapters are written. Like the flashback scenes (this happens throughout the trilogy) starts with “Character X remembers.” I don’t mind flashback scenes, but starting it that way confused me as a reader. I think there could have been other ways to introduce the flashbacks.

Rating:

2.5 out of 5

Hello again

Hello world, it’s me Bill Adams…yeah it doesn’t work as well as the famous lines by Judy Blume, but then again, I am not cool and known like her. So there’s that…

But in all reality, it has been quite a long time (months in fact) since I have truly had a chance to churn out a blog post, or even a review of a book I’v read. Life got in the way. I bought a house like an adult and spent two months trying get it up and ready – yeah that failed, still lots left to do. Both my dogs got health problems at the same time: Old Man Charlie needed teeth extracted and our lovable stray Freya ended up having heartworms. So yay, lot’s of money to spend all at once…

I’m back though to normalcy, as normal as could be. Now it is just time to get back into the swing of things.

In terms of my writing, I haven’t done really any new writing in the months that have passed. Per a previous post, I have been working on some developmental edits for my fantasy trilogy. The first book is finally complete and I must say I did a much better job conveying the story this time around. The editor I worked with loves the new approach. Now it’s just time to start querying again.

I did start to plot out a new short story, but I will save that for another post because let me just say that short stories are much different to plan/plot than novels and I am truly just learning it…

I have still been reading a lot in the last couple of months so it is time for me to continue on with my reviews of those books. Expect to see them in the next few days.

Also, to spice it up, I think I am also going to start doing some movie reviews as well. I haven’t seen a ton of new movies lately, but maybe this will start me on the path to viewing more regularly than the same select few I watch religiously when nothing else is on. I also want to start reviewing TV shows as well in this medium. I canceled cable and have been binge-watching Netflix so I have some good shows to review. You know, round out my mediums…