Friday, September 28, 2012

The Quest for the Talisman - A Book Review

The Quest for the Talisman
Michael A. Faris

As stories go, I liked this one. A group of people come together to retrieve a valuable item for their king. As you might guess from the cover, Zeppelins were the main mode of air travel. The rest of Michael's world is an interesting mix of technical/mechanical and not, even all the way down the social ladder to what might be considered modern neanderthals. As the main team encounters each society or people/person in their search, the mystery grows. Just exactly what is this talisman and what does it do? Yes, it does something.

As to the author's skill in writing, it was very rough. Actual misspelled words were very few, but there were more in the latter chapters, telling me he spent more time worrying about the front half, than the book as a whole. The most annoying 'error', and it was consistent throughout the book, was every hyphen was an underscore. I have no idea how that one could have escaped notice, as it was frequently used.

Would I recommend this book? Sure, but only if you lock your inner editor firmly away behind many chains, hasps and deadbolts. Like I said, there are many issues with the writing that would drive an editor up a wall.

Though scene changes are duly marked, there were many that were single-liners at best and would have been better left out entirely or lumped together to make at least a page or three, so us readers can have a chance to change channels. Though the changes were sometimes quick and short, they were easy enough to keep track of if you paid close attention to who was who and where they were. As the story progresses they all mix and mingle, and find their own way to the end goal.

Also, though these were relatively few, story threads were started and led nowhere, or appeared from nowhere to make some tie-in more convenient.

There were also issues with the characters that annoyed me somewhat. People making decisions based on no foundation I could determine was one thing. Another was, military people doing things no person with military training would ever do.

But, if you can manage to overlook these things, do read the book. It's a touching story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Gift of El Tio - A Book Review

The Gift of El Tio 
Larry Buchanan and Karen Gans 

Until I cracked this book, I looked upon any memoir with a good deal of trepidation. Like a history text book, those memoirs I've read were always a rather dry recitation of facts and dates. As you might guess, I haven't read many memoirs. Now we come to this book. The Gift of El Tio isn't quite a memoir and yet it is, after a fashion. This book chronicles the change the people of a tiny remote village of San Cristobal, Bolivia went through when an enormous silver deposit was discovered beneath their little village. But that's not the only changes chronicled in this book.

In order for the silver to be mined, the backwards villagers of San Cristobal had to be moved. Their entire village had to be moved - something they were thrilled to do. You see, El Tio promised them a gift, a gift of wealth and a new life. All because the silver discovered by Larry had remained hidden despite all other ventures to find it. The time was right for it's discovery. It was time for the prophecy to come true. El Tio and the silver had waited for hundreds of years for Larry to make his discovery.

Can you imagine, a prophecy, a real prophecy? Really! But like in all things, even prophecies have a flip side of the coin. What is it? Just like Larry had to wait 10 years to find out, and just like I had to wait until the end of the book to find out. You too simply have to read this book to find out. Now that I've tweaked your curiosity. Fuze Publishing is the place to go. The Gift of El Tio is listed under non-fiction and well worth your money. 

As most of you know, my reviews find their way to a writerly subject eventually. We all strive to write in a character arc when we craft our stories. In this book, you will find so many arcs. There's nothing like real life for seeing such a thing. In this book, the villagers of San Cristobal are not the only people to change. They went from a simple people worshiping many minor gods as well as the Catholic God brought to them by the Spaniards. They also saw demons in every dark crevasse and cave along their mountainous roads and trails. Rituals and sacrifices saw them safely through their life. They became very different by the end of the book. Modern, working hard, even harried - too busy to honor the gods.

But they weren't the only people to change. Follow Larry and his wife Karen as they too change. Larry, the stark realist discovers religion, after a fashion, and Karen, who saw the world through rose colored glasses, learned to take the glasses off once in a while.

So, if you want a lesson in character arc, or if you just want a really good read, buy this book. You will laugh out loud and you will cry; I did both, and that too is something every writer strives to accomplish.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Chaos of Change

The difference between my summers and my winters is enormous. The greatest cause of this chaos is my need to go to work. Most of you work a 9 to 5 job, 5 or 6 days a week, year round, so the struggle for time for you is constant. Finding time to write falls into a fairly stable slot of the day or week. For me, shifting from the summer crunch of seemingly no time to the far more lax schedule of winter can present it's own chaos.

The things I need to catch up on, or take more time with, seem to abound not only in my online work, but also in my real life. I still have supplies to put away, so boxes clutter my little cabin making navigation perilous. Today, it was raining, so I spent most of my afternoon catching up on burning trash. A whole summer's worth of trash for just the two of us isn't really all that much but it refused to burn hot until the very last, so it took longer than I had planned. Tomorrow I plan to organize the woodshed and make room for the lawn mower and the weed-eater, and likely some other summertime tools. That task will generate more trash so, wind permitting, I'll be burning again. That's a sample of the things I need to do before snow comes and gets things lost.

Online, I need to take more time with Twitter and actually read, and maybe reTweet, some of the posts. Same with Facebook where I moderate two groups, a blogging group, and a writing group and am a member of over a dozen more, both for blogging and for writing or reading. It's rather rude to merely drop a link and move on, something I've been more or less forced to do all summer long. Then there's the other forums I am a member of, and that's not even mentioning the books I'm supposed to read and review.

Oh and lets not forget my own writing. At the moment I'm giving The Making of a Mage-King a final polish before sending it off to my editor. My publisher has expressed an interest in some of my other works so at this point it is a toss-up whether I'll continue to polish another selection or I will pick up my work in progress, Druid Derrick, of which there are several samples already posted earlier on this blog. I do know that later this winter, I'll be going through the edits Whiskey Creek Press' editor will have for me. That is always an exciting thing to do; I so look forward to learning from an editor. I've never spoken with him/her, so I look forward to this with some trepidation as well. And lets not forget about book 2 of my Mage-King series. I'll be getting that one back from my editor too at some point this winter. Having 2 books going at the same time is a bit much to handle, but I can do it. Depending on how things go with Whiskey Creek Press, I may submit another book to them. I haven't decided yet. At this point, I feel a little like a cog in a wheel, but if they do good... We'll see.

Catching up is going to take a while, hopefully not all winter long. Then again, is there such a thing as 'catching up'? Sometimes I wonder. Are you ever 'caught up'?

Friday, September 7, 2012


I got my first 2-star review ever the other day, but though it was low, I won't call it a bad review. He went to the trouble of enumerating what he thought my book lacked and that's great. Mostly, he saw cliches everywhere he looked. One of the first things I heard was that every story possible has already been told, all you can do is mix it up a bit and tell it anyway. Something I hope I've done. But that's not what this post is about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and all I can do is hope to learn something from every bit of feedback. What I want to address is his comment about the magic.

"Magic is uninspiring and not explained well or described in any meaningful way. The main pretty much just does stuff with no take on how he does them or even what it looks like. Things are never really shown you are just kind of told he does such and such."

The way I see magic is that it is a skill of the mind. My character does not live in Harry Potter's world where magic requires certain moves with a wand accompanied by a properly pronounced word. Though I've never seen it, Uri Geller could move objects and bend spoons. He didn't need to do anything but concentrate on his desired task and it happened. This is how I see magic as it is portrayed in Prince in Hiding.

Early on, Sean was advised to learn how to work his magic without the use of his hands. I can see a beginner wanting to reach out and pick up a stone with his hand while intending that the actual task be accomplished with only his mind. And yet I can also anticipate his need to keep his actions secret, or maybe it's just a matter that his hands are preoccupied in some other way.

And finally, what does magic look like? You don't even 'see' magic in Harry Potter's world. There's no sparkly zing of lights that stream off the tip of the wand and lights up whatever it hits. In The Sorcerer's Stone, when Hermione was being attacked by the troll, Ron lifted it's club up out of it's hand. There was nothing to see but his word, the wave of his wand, and the club levitated. Take away the wand and the word, and you have the same thing in my book.

So tell me, if you were to be able to do magic, how would you do it? Really, I'm curious. How do you see the skill of being able to work magic? Everyone's idea or view of the subject is different. What's yours?