The Shannara Chronicles – a review

I’m recovering from a cold here, but I recently finished catching up on the Shannara chronicles second season.

I never read the books when I was younger, so I went into watching this show with no real expectations other than that it was going to be some high fantasy YA stuff. But I was game for something light.

It’s set in a wold that’s clearly supposed to be extremely distant future earth, judging from the ruins of a collapsed civilization reminiscent of ours. Laid on top of that is a world of elves and trolls and humans battling demons and warlocks. The elves have a magic tree that keeps the demons bound in their own realm, but of course the tree is dying and the characters must go off on a quest to save the tree and keep the demons where they are, all the while trying to work through their adorable teenaged love triangle.

It is light. It’s a steaming trash heap of YA fantasy tropes.

I love it.

There’s something about campiness when they just go all in and don’t try to hide the campiness. It’s like Xena Warrior princess for the new generation, only where the bisexuality is right out in the open and not just hinted at in subtext. I feel like they just took all those nineties shows – Xena, Hercules, Sinbad, etc, and studied them to figure out why they stayed on the air so friggin’ long, and updated the format for the modern audience who doesn’t have the patience for filler episodes and loves the story arcs that take a whole season to tell.

The costumes look like cosplays. Well constructed cosplays, but cosplays nonetheless, that are constructed to look like some geek boy’s fantasy that he drew up for a video game or comic book and was never intended to be an actual practical outfit. Fake plastic boned corsets abound, and leather tube tops pass as adventuring gear. How do they move in those skintight leather pants? Must be magic. The ball gowns though – over the top delights.

I did note that while there was LGBT representation in the first season, there was far less POC representation. They did bring in more POC characters in the second season though, if you hold out for that, including a princess and her mother the queen of the human kingdom, which is extra awesome because black girls don’t get to be princesses often.

There wasn’t anything racy or coarse – I’d rate it PG, it would be perfectly suitable for a fairly young audience as long as you’re not one of those people who seems to think LGBT content is automatically adult only content. There was implied sex, but they drew the curtains at kissing.

It’s junk food for your brain, but sometimes you just want to eat garbage, and that’s ok.


Review: Novel Writing Software – Liquid Story Binder

I’ve been using this program a couple of years and managed to hook a couple of writer friends on it too. I’ve been using it long enough and like it enough, that at this point I would be terribly annoyed to have to do without it.

Pros: I love how it gives me the ability to organize my work to the extent that it does. It makes it easy to reorganize scenes, and have multiple windows open in front of me at a time.

Cons: The program has a bit of a learning curve – things aren’t in really intuitive places, and there’s so many things it can do, it’s hard to get as much out of it as you can right away. I can deal with that though.

Having been working with it for a while, I’m finding two huge cons. First, you’re limited to three windows at a time of the same type (if you open a fourth, the first window closes automatically.)

And second, there are issues with exporting documents. If I export it the wrong way, I lose formatting. Or I get an error when I’m trying to convert it into an e-pub. Or it creates a document that’s the entire thing written on top of itself on the first line, in pale grey coloured font. Or it strips all the quotation marks out. That last one’s the most annoying – I don’t always notice it right away.

And it’s hard to remember which way to do it, for which purpose. I’ve hit the point where it’s just safer to build the manuscript, and then copy and paste from there rather than actually exporting it.

I’ve loved this program a long time, but I’m sad to say that now, with a finished manuscript, the exporting issues are annoying enough to make me start seriously thinking of looking for an alternative. As much as I’d prefer not to give apple more money than it needs, I’m considering trying out scrivener, at least for the trial period.

Thoughts on Receiving Critiques

With critiques coming in, and one beta reader nearly finished reading the novel, I’ve been thinking about how I receive critiques. Partly because I’ve also been watching others receive critiques, in various face to face groups or partnerships. Some people handle negative feedback better than others.

The way I look at it, is the whole point of this is finding out what’s still broken that I can fix and make the story better. In which case, the negative feedback is useful and much appreciated, and I try to let my critiquers know how much I appreciate it. Because getting the feedback is a means to an end – the point is making the story better.

It’s different from a review – a review is when you get the book published and people say what they think sucked and what was good and whether or not other people should bother spending money on it. It’s a reflection of what someone thinks of your writing skill. A critique, on the other hand, is not supposed to be a reflection of your skill, but a tool to improve. A stepping stone to better writing, so that when those reviews come in, they won’t be as disappointing as they could be.

One big factor in how I see people receiving critiques is the writer’s perception of how good they are. Most people in critique groups think they’re a lot better than they are. I won’t say most writers, because the writers who think they’re worse than they are, generally are too embarrassed of their work to join a critique group. But, especially with a newly formed critique group, with members who don’t know one another well enough to want to spare one another’s feelings, there is often that first time critique that’s received with a disappointed frown.

Sometimes the person has had much more positive feedback from a more supportive, but possibly less honest environment (my mom says she liked it/my fanfic is well received by my following).  It can be hard for those people to hear a more honest opinion from a less invested stranger.

I find it’s never a good idea to have close friends or family critique your work. I did give my novel to my mother in law to read, but I didn’t expect her to offer a lot of negative feedback with the honesty of an actual critiquer – she just wanted to read it. The reason family and close friends are a bad idea is because the relationship will get in the way of the feedback – the person giving feedback will be afraid to hurt the writer’s feelings, and if they value the friendship, they are very likely to hold back. On the other side, if the writer values the friendship, their feelings are likely to be hurt even more than if the feedback were to come from a stranger.

I do have one very close friend with whom I trade critiques, and we are brutally honest with one another. When we started trading critiques though, we weren’t friends yet – just fellow writers who met at the day job and who made a mutually agreeable arrangement. The friendship grew out of that, but the brutal honesty in critiques remained, because we both know the other has a very thick skin and can handle anything we say.

We also know that critiques are only opinions. She’s a great copyeditor, but every once in a while, she makes a suggestion of a style change that would change my style to hers. I just ignore those. I appreciate the suggestion, and sometimes her more formal style would suit the character I’m writing, and I’ll make the change anyway, so I’d just as soon she point it out as not, so that I can make a choice. But we have very different styles, and not everything I suggest is going to be something that works for her either, and we both respect one another enough to not get hot under the collar if we disagree on a point.

But in closing, if you’re one of those people who’s heartbroken at receiving a critique that points out weaknesses in your work that you didn’t realise were there, don’t be. It’s not a review – the work isn’t published yet, and it doesn’t have to be perfect yet. No one expects brilliance in a critique group. Take that feedback as it’s intended – as a tool to help you become a stronger writer.

“Click ‘Like’ on my book on Amazon, and I’ll ‘Like’ yours!”

So somebody posted a link to my Dieselpunk vs Steampunk post yesterday, and suddenly I had literally twenty frelling thousand page loads in a half a day. Reading the comments has been interesting – there was a lot of disagreement, but interesting discussion, and lots of thoughts I’d like to elaborate on in the future. And of course, if you ever write anything, naturally you’re going to be misunderstood by someone. Someone even got upset that I had trashed Waterworld, when I wasn’t at all, I liked that movie. I’m only surprised I didn’t get trashed harder. The great unwashed of the interwebs have not lived up to their reputation for mindless trolling! (Not complaining, mind.)

Anyway, elaborations for another day. On to today’s topic.

I’ve taken to very seldom buying a book off the shelf these days unless I’ve heard it recommended by multiple people, or read at least one review. I don’t have time to waste on stuff that isn’t worth my time, and lately I’ve been wanting to try out new authors, rather than going over the same old authors that I haven’t quite read everything they’ve written yet. So reviews, and things like Goodreads, has been where I’m going to look for new books, and I appreciate the number of resources online, and honest, thoughtful reviews.

Also, I’ve been reviewing books on my own website, and recently, with Blightcross, was, for the first time, asked for a review. I was honoured to be asked, and strove for honesty in my review. If there was something that bothered me in the book, I feel as a reviewer, I’m honour bound to say so in the review. After all, who’s going to take me seriously as a reviewer if I give a glowing review to a shitty book?

I saw this posted on Facebook today:

This is IMPORTANT………..

So Important I am posting this again….

If you are an author OR BUYER on Amazon… please pay attention…

They “recommend” your book to consumers based on two things:
1) Tags
2) Likes and Reviews

You MUST log into Amazon and create either a “real name” or another name and tag your book… meaning categorize it.. for example I tagged mine as chick lit, romance, rock and roll….

Next we ALL MUST go to each other’s books and click the like button…. why.. it is FREE PROMOTION for all of us….

To do that, do NOT like THIS post….

Click the link below and when the book comes up right under the title there will be a like button… click it (you MAY have to log in)

Then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE… post the link to your book below so we can all reciprocate………….

Okay. What I see here is a blatant request from one author to another, to assist them with cheating a system intended to draw readers attention to good quality fiction. The author of this note is not saying, read my book and click like if you liked it. They’re not even actually asking you to read the book.

Seeing things like this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s the same as the follow-me-on-twitter-and-I’ll-follow-you-and-we’ll-retweet-all-one-another’s-tweets thing. Or the you-buy-my-book-and-I’ll-buy-yours thing, and we’ll make a living that way. Only, this is just a little bit worse, because it’s dishonest at it’s core, both for the author making the request, and the others participating.

I don’t know really what else to say about this, but that I resent having to compete with people doing things like this, rather than doing *real* networking, and *real* review solicitation that I see other authors doing, and when I’m not willing to compromise my own ethics, as minor as this is, to join them. Even if I don’t have a book out yet – I will, and I’m sure I’ll resent it even more when I do.

Book Review: Havemercy, by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennet

Debut novel of Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennet, and like Peter S. Beagle and many others have said, it doesn’t read like a debut novel.

Overall, I loved it. It’s the first in a series, so I can forgive them for not killing *all* the characters I would have killed, if it were me writing it, because I know two of the characters I would have killed are POV characters for the next book. And one of the major plot points that was forshadowed and not resolved is centered around one of those two characters, so I expect to see that resolved later as well and forgive that as well.

I love the setting – but then, I’m a sucker for combining technology and magic, so the dragons were right up my alley.

Favourite scene: the exploding dining room table.

My biggest beef with the story was I bought it for the dragon on the front, and the dragon was barely in the story. Her first scene, even was an excercise flight around the city, and it felt like the scene was only there to get her into the story. She was really cool when she was there, but, like I said, barely there.

My other beef would have to be the lack of female characters – strange for a book written by two female authors. All four POV characters were male – and having two of them homosexual didn’t make up for it. Not even really any significant secondary female characters.

But the ending, and the body count at the end was satisfactory. I was starting to wonder about the body count, but they were just saving it all up for the end. And then they really came through.

It’s very political, mostly about relationships, and though I figured out one major plot twist between Rook and Thom at least 100 pages before I got to it, that’s ok, it was a good plot twist. Maybe a bit cliche, but it was well executed, and the characters made it unique.

The characters are some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read, too. Rook, especially – somehow they managed to do badass from a first person POV, without the character ending up ruined by emo. There was lots of emotion, from all the characters, but this character’s emotion was all anger, he never once let himself sit down and feel sorry for himself. He was a complete asshole, but I loved that character.