21 October, 2015

Giveaway Winner - The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson (creator of Game of Throne's Dothraki language)

I'm sorry my posts have been so sporadic of late. I had 4 hearings scheduled this week alone coupled with your usual client emergencies and the pile of work my boss gives me. I'm barely hanging on here.

However, I do owe a giveaway winner for our latest giveaway. Plus, expect another giveaway coming up soon.

This looks like such a great book, I'm glad someone will get their hands on it shortly. From the creator of the Dothraki language from the hit HBO television series, Game of Thrones, David J. Peterson takes us into what it takes to invent a language.

Our winner of a single copy of The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson is:

Bridget from Milford, OH

Thanks to all who participated, I've emailed the winner. As I mentioned, there will be another giveaway later this week.

30 September, 2015

Giveaway - The Art of Language Invention: From Horselords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind Worldbuilding by David J. Peterson (Creator of the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones)

I've got a great giveaway for one copy of David J. Peterson's new book, The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building. As you well know, and not just because of the title to this post, Peterson is the genius behind the Dothraki language in the Game of Thrones television show. 

As the publicity rep explains:
In THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION, master language creator David J. Peterson lays out a creative, highly accessible guide to language construction for science-fiction and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. A perfect entry point into an art form as old as civilization, THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION is a wild linguistic adventure that will have readers ready to rub shoulders with horse lords and dark elves and perhaps inspire them to create their own languages.
Here's how to enter:
1) Send an email with your name and physical address to onlythebestsff@[replace this]gmail.com.
2) Please provide the following in the subject line: "hetay artay ofay anguageay inventionay"
3) This is US only. *ducks rotten fruit*
4) Snark always helps your chances of winning future giveaways. As if you even can...
5) Remember, only one person wins, I wish I had more!

16 September, 2015

(audiobook) Review - Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton

I finally took the plunge and Jurassic Park far exceeded all my expectations. I also learned I had pretty low expectations, but I had a great time with this classic that spurred one of my favorite movies as a kid. BTW, anyone else root for the dinosaurs? It makes the movie way less scary, let me tell you.

Here's my review on SFFAudio.com and here's a snippet:

So this book was published in 1990 and this book had maybe a total of 15 to 20 people at risk, not counting the rest of the world that could potentially be at risk by dinosaurs escaping. We’re talking people you’re honestly worried about dying or not throughout the book.
Jump to 2015, Jurassic World, and we’ve got an entire park open with thousands and thousands of people at risk. Does that say something about how our society’s penchant for destruction?

11 September, 2015

eBook Deals - Gaiman, Pratchett, Howey, Clarke, Barnes, Clines, Klima, Frohock, Crouch, McCammon

Tons of eBook deals this month. Thought I'd share.

[$1.99] Unnatural Creatures (short stories) by Neil Gaiman
[$1.99] The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30) by Terry Pratchett
[$1.99] Dust (Silo #3) by Hugh Howey
[$1.99] Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
[$1.99] The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
[$1.99] Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
[$1.99] The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire #1) by Mark T. Barnes - My Review.
[$1.99] The Obsidian Heart (Echoes of Empire #2) by Mark T. Barnes
[$1.99] The Pillars of Sand (Echoes of Empire #3) by Mark T. Barnes
[$1.99] Ex-Patriots (Ex-Heroes #2) by Peter Clines
[$1.99] Ex-Communication (Ex-Heroes #3) by Peter Clines
[$1.99] Ex-Purgatory (Ex-Heroes #4) by Peter Clines
[$1.99] Happily Ever After (anthology), Edited by John Klima
[$1.99] Miserere by Teresa Frohock

[$2.00] Pines (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch
[$2.00] Wayward (Wayward Pines #2) by Blake Crouch
[$2.00] The Last Town (Wayward Pines #3) by Blake Crouch

[$2.99] Stinger by Robert McCammon

25 August, 2015

Review - Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada gave me an epiphany and that's not always a good thing apparently.

Up to the moment I read this book, I'd started to convince myself that really the main thing that mattered to me in a book was readability. How much was a both looking forward to reading a book and how fast were the pages turning for me? Those are two things I thought a great deal of in terms of esteem (and star rating points).

Armada had all that. I did look forward to reading it and I thought the pages turned rather quickly all in all.

But I started to realize that even though I was enjoying myself, I didn't really think all that much of this story. It's rather bland for the most part and so chalk full of 80's nerdery it's almost as if no other nerdery is allowed or considered worthy.

Now, this 80's geekiness works really well in Cline's debut, Ready Player One (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...), because it's essential to the story. Maybe we should add, because it was new, but I don't know if you can go that far. When the premise revolves around the 80s it just works.

Here, Armada's 80's affiliation has more to do with a kid's dead father's obsession and begins to grate in all the wrong ways. It's as if this geeky kid never realized there were other nerdy things to do ... even though he's obsessed with a very hyper-futuristic video game that all kids his age are obsessed with. It'd've been fine with additional, modern references - 80's references are fine - it's just that it begins to sound like that's the only worthy decade when that's far from the truth and arguably only the beginning of a very many great decades for geekery that only got better.

It's reinforced by the fact that only those other characters who also know 80's lore are considered with it, cool, on fleek (that's what the kids are saying these days right? *cough* *cough*).

To reiterate it's like the emphasis makes it seem like you're only cool (geeky) if you're up on your 80's geekery. If not, you're not actually a geek.

Now, I don't want to act like I didn't like Armada. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I admit that my expectations were nigh-on insurmountable after how much I fell for Ready Player One. I still enjoyed Armada, I just won't be fondly remembering my time with the book like I still do with RPO. It's a fun romp and I've forgone mention of the inconsistencies I saw (I think I gave it a hard enough time as is).

I'll still be scooping up Cline's next book, but probably not with as much fervor. Expectations have been tempered.

3 out of 5 Stars (recommended with reservations)

18 August, 2015

Guest Post - "Good Dialogue: Balancing Realism and Awesomeness by A.G. Wyatt

Good Dialogue: Balancing Realism and Awesomeness

Some people will tell you that good dialogue is realistic. Those people are barely half right on a good day. Good dialogue is a delicate balance between what’s realistic, what’s dramatic, and what’s just plain awesome.

So how does that work?

Balancing Realism and Drama

You need dialogue to seem realistic and to sound like we imagine people talking. That means slang, abbreviations, incomplete sentences, and touches of humor and awkwardness.

But that’s not the same as how people really talk. Any real conversation involves a bunch of repetitions, hesitations, and “er, hm” moments that just clutter up the scene. So throw in some realism, but don’t go too far.

Aaron Sorkin is famous for this. His dialogue seems realistic because characters interrupt and talk over each other, like in real life. But it’s hyper-reality, in which every word is cool, coherent and awesome.

Speaking of awesome, snappy one-liners and killer comebacks will make your dialogue memorable and grab attention, so throw in a few. But don’t use a whole bucketful — the more you have, the more obvious it will be that this isn’t real people talking.

The same goes for drama. This lies largely in the structure, so is easier to hide. Skip over the awkward fifteen minutes of developing a real plan, and cut to the summary. Have people interrupt each other at the perfect moment to add conflict and tension to the scene without hiding meaning. Have people join in at the perfectly dramatic right (or wrong) moment.

Structure for drama and use details for realism and awesomeness.

Voices: Being Consistent and Characterful

One of the most important things to do in good dialogue is to make the characters distinctive. Give each one particular phrases or ways of talking. These can be obvious, like Marvel comics’ robot bounty hunter Death’s Head, who ends many sentences with “yes?” They can be more subtle, like having a character use short sentences or ask a lot of questions. The character can be favoring long words, or plainer sounding ones with an Anglo-Saxon root.

If each character has distinctive verbal tics then they’ll stand out, making the dialogue clearer, more real and more dramatic. But be careful not to overdo it. Even Death’s Head doesn’t use his distinctive “yes?” as often on the page as readers remember, and only gets away with it because he’s not a totally serious character. Over use any element and the character will seem absurd.

Some Examples

It’s easier to show how this works through bad examples than good ones. So let’s look at a few (that I’ve invented — no real authors were hurt in the making of this article)…

“As you know, Gilbert, Ragaton was once home to an ancient witch who…”

Any sentence that starts “as you know” is a stinker. Using this to tell readers story background is neither dramatic nor realistic — only the most tedious people tell us what we already know. If I want them to talk about the witch, I’ll have to imply her existence:

“Is that poster meant to show the Ragaton Witch? It looks almost as ancient and wrinkled as she was.”

It’s not perfect, but it hints at the character’s snobby attitude and deep familiarity with the witch, while implying her existence.

How about a little back and forth:

“Why did you do it, Rusko?”
“I’m not telling.”
“Tell me or I’ll beat you.”
“Still not telling.”

That’s one way to take the drama out of an interrogation, and the realism - people don’t just answer questions directly, and the interrogator is being too on the nose. So instead:

“Why did you do it, Rusko?”
“Why are you such a fat pig, Cole? You’re like one of them big sows, rolling around in the—”
“You want to meet my friend Mr. Lead Pipe?”
“You want to go to Hell?”

Now Rusko’s fighting back with his words, “Mr. Lead Pipe” has shown Cole’s twisted sense of humor, and they’re both being a little bit more dramatic and characterful.

Good dialogue strikes that balance of realism and drama, as well as showing character. It’s not just nice to have. It’s vital.

MoonFall (MoonFall Series Book 1)
A.G. Wyatt is the author of the post-apocalyptic adventure series, MoonFall, and is presently working on his second series. When he's not writing, he's reading, or looking for inspiration near his hometown in Northeastern PA.

Links to A.G. Wyatt's social media profiles:

04 August, 2015

(audiobook) Review - The Martian by Andy Weir

I like to have fun with my reviews and I sure did with this one. Check out my review for Andy Weir's The Martian over at SFFAudio.com. Check out the trailer for the new movie, starring Matt Damon, here:

From my review:
Five stars for pure entertainment and because math made it suspenseful.  
That’s right, math made it thrilling. Look at it this way, you’re stranded on a planet that’s essentially trying to kill you. You could just keel over and die … like I would most likely do in the same situation, or you could figure out how to stay alive.

23 July, 2015

(audiobook) Review - City of Golden Shadow (Otherland #1) by Tad Williams

Tad Williams has been one of those authors I'd never really gotten around to even though he's a pillar of fantasy literature. Technically, I did read his story contained in Songs of the Dying Earth (which was excellent), but never one of his mainstays such as Otherland and his epic, Memory, Sorry, and Thorn series.

Apparently that day has come and I've officially read Tad Williams. And what did I think? I hate to say this, but mostly meh.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy City of Golden Shadow, but for the ending we get (i.e., the status of the characters at the end), there's not really a whole lot to show for it. It's a long book, and not really all that much happens. There are tons of mysteries, but I found myself not really caring about some of the main characters and that made it difficult to say the least.

At the same time, I feel compelled to go on. Though I was disappointed with where we got in the end of the book, I wasn't so much disappointed in the ending itself. It was exciting to finally see things moving along, to see progress. I was finally sucked in by the end, but how did it take just under 800 pages to do that?

I won't go into the story, I feel like I'm one of the last to finally discover Williams so it's weird describing it, but it's interesting and mysterious and I guess that's what kept my interest for so long.

Additionally, I listened to this on audio and I really wonder if I would have pushed through had I been reading this page by page. It's so long and slow-moving, I honestly think I might have given up. I'm glad I listened to it because I'm excited to see what happens now that the story can finally begin. But that's one long intro.

And I have to say that the narrator, George Newbern, did an excellent job. That certainly helped as well. His accents for the different characters, including Indian, Spanish, and Bushman (!Xabbu) were always impressive. He switched through them effortlessly as well and though some sounded similar, it was also distinct.

Overall, I'm glad I finally read City of Golden Shadow and after doing so (to completion I might add) I'm convinced that Williams deserves the praise he gets. I was bored at times, but interested and even captivated at other times. I enjoyed it in the end, but I don't know if it's worth the slog for everyone because it really was a slog at times. I'll have to read more in the series for more incite.

3 out of 5 Stars (for a slow start but eventual payoff - recommended)

Note: ARC received from audio publisher with absolutely no conditions. I reviewed it anyway. :)
Note #2: Usually my audiobook reviews appear on sffaudio.com, however, they already have a reviewer covering this series and so mine has become superfluous.

18 July, 2015

Guest Post - Max Gladstone on "The Laws of Magic"

The Craft Sequence, starting with Three Parts Dead, is one of those that's been on my radar for quite some time, but with my schedule, I haven't had the time to get to it. At the same time, I've only heard great things about it, so I took the opportunity to host an article by Max Gladstone on "The Laws of Magic."

Being a lawyer myself, this article really hit home for me and Three Parts Dead has risen tremendously on my radar. Thanks go to Max and look for his latest from Tor, Last First Snow, book 4 in the Craft Sequence, which just came out July 14.


The Laws of Magic
By Max Gladstone

Modern fantasies tend to discuss magic as if it’s an alternate form of physics, or even computer code—but really, we expect magic to work much more like the practice of law.

In law, as in magic, the world functions according to certain rules and definitions.  In law, as in magic, masters of those rules and definitions can, in certain ritual circumstances, manipulate symbols to change aspects of their world.  Law, like magic, rests on pillars of dead languages and forbidden (or at least forbidding) tomes—I don’t know any other modern profession that involves quite so many thick tomes of onionskin paper set in small type and bound in red leather.

And law, like magic, depends on the personal skill and charisma of the advocate.  In computer programming, and in physics, you can’t just want something to happen hard enough, while time and again in fantasy we encounter moments where heroes triumph through sheer force of will.  Programming and physics are both profoundly impersonal.  Ted Chiang once suggested, when trying to define magic as something apart from science, that magic cares who’s practicing it, while science, ideally, works the same for everyone.  Well, law does care.

That’s where it started for me—that, coupled with the joking observation that law school classes tend to sound more like Hogwarts classes than do graduate level classes in other disciplines.  No “Advanced Topics in Biokinetics” or whatever—nope, you’ve got Remedies and Contracts and Corpse.  (Okay, fine, Corps.)  I think Potions is a 2L elective at most accredited US law schools.

They don’t teach you Defense against the Dark Arts, though.  That would make firm interviews more complicated.

Once I started pulling on this thread, the whole sweater unraveled—only to re-ravel itself into a different, weirder sweater.  I’ve written elsewhere about the connection between necromancy and bankruptcy law—surround a corpse with ritual wards and protections, remove the bits that don’t work, replace them with new bits built to your own design, and raise the corpse to shamble forth and do your bidding—but the implications go further. 

Law mediates relationships between people, and between people and these enormous immaterial entities that people naturally create, which have their own behaviors, histories, attitudes, psychologies, operations, and goals—we call them governments sometimes, and corporations other times, but at all times we use legal tools to develop them, maintain them, and, when necessary, destroy them.

Lawyers are one of the few groups in the modern world with the tools and power to engage these entities, and to help human beings relate to, and sometimes resist, them.  The enormous challenges we face in this new millennium, as those entities become more interconnected, intelligent, responsive, and invasive, are in that sense legal challenges—or at least, they’re challenges lawyers cannot ignore.

But law has as much potential to be an instrument of oppression as liberation; it’s much easier to pay off your student loans when you’re working for the power. To what extent can we work for good within the system?  How does reform happen?  What better options exist?  How do we resist regulatory capture?  These are enormous questions—too big, almost, to address in mimetic fiction.  Ever since the first proto-humans grunted stories to one another around the campfire, we’ve approached our society's biggest questions in the language of myth; that’s what I’m trying to do in the Craft Sequence.

Also, this approach lets me fill fantasy novels with jokes about Dead Hands, mediation practice, document review, and the Rule against Perpetuities—and goofy law jokes really are their own reward.

From Patrick Rothfuss's 5-Star Goodreads review of Three Parts Dead:" Twenty-ish years ago, I read Neverwhere and it kinda blew the top off of my head. It was a mix of things I didn't know could be mixed. It was magic and myth and London and faerie all brought together in a clever, cunning, subtle melange. 

That's how I feel about these books. They mix magic and science and culture and finance in a way I never considered possible before." 

10 July, 2015

Review - Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

Knowledge is power and that's what the Library has been cultivating for centuries. Instead of releasing this knowledge to the world, it hoards it and if knowledge equals power, then the Library has proven that equation time and again. With an iron hold on the world and it's knowledge, it makes itself out to be the protector of information. Owning books is illegal.

But what it really presents is the stagnation of technology. And Jess is a book smuggler.

Original works are worth their weight in gold and Jess' family has been running books to every sort, but mostly those who will pay the hefty fee. However, soon Jess begins to learn the truth of the Library he's always believed in as he witnesses an automaton in the form of a lion kill with abandon.

Jess also learns about the lengths the Library will go to stop those such as himself who pose a threat to their power. And that doesn't stop Jess' family from enrolling him in the Library's elite and pricey program that would allow him to enter into employment with the Library and become their spy from the inside.

Part Harry Potter, part Hunger Games, Ink and Bone introduces us to the Great Library series and the enrollment class for entry into the Library, but in an alternate world ruled for centuries by the Library. Throughout the book, we follow Jess in a third-person limited perspective as he makes his way through the elimination process of postulants attempting to become either Scholars or Guarda (Library military) of the Library.

If you've read my reviews before, you know I'm a sucker for these kinds of books. Throw a protagonist in a difficult, nigh on impossible school setting and you already have me halfway.

What's great about this entering class is that because of the Library's almost total control, the class students are from all over the world, as diverse as can be, whether from the Middle East, German, or the States. They have an instructor from Hell who has to winnow the class from dozens to 6 ... if he even accepts that many. And the class falls fast.

There are only a couple moments I found my disbelief difficult to suspend, because once you find out the volumes are available to anyone on what is termed a "blank," which is essentially an eReader, all we're really fighting about are original volumes of text. They're cool and all, but if you have the knowledge that's the important thing. And apparently they have some type of decent technology so it's difficult to see how much the Library has really held society back.

I think the story loses the point a little bit, but focuses back up to show the Library is also preventing knowledge from spreading to the point of murder. And they will do anything to stop threats to their power.

I don't read a lot of YA, but I found Ink and Bone to be hugely entertaining. From the very first page, I was enthralled, I couldn't put it down. Yes, I had some moments I questioned, but for pure entertainment value, I was behind this book 100%.

I can't recommend Ink and Bone enough. It's a unique world that draws from our own, only if the Library had risen to power and continued to control the world to this day. I had a blast in it and I can't believe I have to wait a whole year for book 2.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

08 July, 2015

eBook Deals - Posey, Gaiman, Abercrombie, Kadrey, Chu, Scalzi, Grossman, Bester, Schwab,

I don't know what's going on lately, but there are a ton of great books on sale right now in the US.

[$0.99] Three (Legends of the Dustwalker #1) by Jay Posey

[$1.99] The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
[$1.99] Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie
[$1.99] The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey
[$1.99] The Lives of Tao (Lives of Tao #1) by Wesley Chu
[$1.99] Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

[$2.99] The Human Division (Old Man's War #5) by John Scalzi
[$2.99] The Magicians (Magicians #1) by Lev Grossman - I can't recommend this enough!
[$2.99] Virtual Unrealities, short fiction by Alfred Bester
[$2.99] Vicious by V.E. Schwab
[$2.99] Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

07 July, 2015

Review - Crystal Rain (Xenowealth #1) by Tobias S. Buckell

I've been hearing about Tobias S. Buckell's Xenowealth series for years and finally got around to it last month. My schedule made reading time difficult to find, so it probably suffered somewhat from that, but overall, I really enjoyed Crystal Rain, book 1 in the Xenowealth series.

John DeBrun has no memory of his past, but there are a few odd things he's realized about himself, such as the fact that he doesn't seem to age or get sick (unbreakable!). We find him established with a wife and son and living in a Caribbean-esque world that leans toward the steampunk.

In this Caribbean-style world, just about everyone talks in dialect. As far as a unique world, I haven't come across this yet and I thought it was interesting ... at first. Then, it got frustrating and difficult to read after a while. It really threw me off and I never got used to it even by the end. Kudos to putting it in there and diversifying the genre, nonetheless.

The Caribbeans are attacked by the neighboring culture who live across the Wicket High mountain range and who are intent on domination. Again, the actual reasons behind the attack (and the interesting surprises) are much more than one country ruling another and has more to do with who is pulling the strings as we learn as the story progresses.

I don't want to spoil too much, but the payoff in the end is really great after the mysteries finally start to unfold. I blazed through the last hundred pages and it helped I actually found that mysterious reading time I was looking for.

Again, I fear spoiling too much, but this is a brilliant mix of fantasy and science fiction that started off slowly, but really built to a great ending. I did have some problems, but overall I highly enjoyed Crystal Rain and I'm looking forward to the sequels. The reveals were worth the minor difficulties and I think going into the next book, those hiccups will be overcome.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended)

Xenowealth series:
1) Crystal Rain
2) Ragamuffin
3) Sly Mongoose
4) Apocalypse Ocean

06 July, 2015

(audiobook) Review - Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

Check out my review of Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson over on SFFAudio.com. I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would. From the review:
Not your typical urban fantasy in the best possible way.

02 July, 2015

Winners - Signed Prince of Fools paperback from Mark Lawrence

We had a great turnout for this giveaway. Apparently Mark Lawrence is a popular guy with fans literally all over the world. So without further ado, we've got two winners of the signed Prince of Fools giveaway:

David Keith from Indiana, USA


Mircea Popescu from Sibiu, Romania

Thanks for all the entries and congrats to the winners!

There wasn't a whole lot of snark because people generally were too happy to have a chance to win something by Mark Lawrence to be able to get into a really snarky mood. I can't say I blame them.

16 June, 2015

Interview with Peter Orullian, author of Trial of Intentions

I've been a fan of Peter Orullian since his debut, The Unremembered, and I'm still looking forward to Trial of Intentions, which is both a sequel and a starting point in The Vault of Heaven series. I would really appreciate it if someone could add an extra couple hours per day that's only allowed to be used for personal, free time. Thanks. 

Peter was gracious enough to let me bombard him with questions and I really enjoyed the answers he provides relating to his series and the decision for an author's definitive edition of The Unremembered, writing in general, music, and much more. I hope you enjoy...

Bryce: Hi Peter, thanks for letting me take some time out of your busy schedule. Tell me about a typical writing day. Do you have any routines? Any music that you write better to than others? Any set schedule?

Peter: I get up at 3:30 a.m. to write before going to work. I do roughly three hours. I don’t care about word count, or page count. I just do the time. Same thing on weekends, holidays, vacations. Every day. That’s the routine.

I don’t write to music. A lot of folks ask this, since I’m a musician, and quite passionate about music. But for me, music isn’t a background thing. If music is on, it requires my attention. And if I’m in public, I’m either singing myself—much to the embarrassment, usually, of those I’m with—or trying to figure out what’s playing on the speakers of whatever establishment I’m visiting. I use Shazam a lot.

Bryce: Your publisher, Tor, just released the author’s definitive edition of The Unremembered. What lead to this new edition? If I read the first version (which I did), do I need to read this one to understand the rest of the series? Will it change my understanding of the rest of the series if I only read that first version?

Peter: First off, no, you don’t need to read the Author’s Edition of The Unremembered to be fine jumping into book two, Trial of Intentions. If you read the original version, you’re good. In fact, due to the delay—which I’ll explain in a moment—I wrote Trial of Intentions as an entry point to the series. So, readers who’ve never read anything by me can start with Trial of Intentions just fine.

The Author’s Edition came about primarily because of a bad author/editor pairing. Later, when my publisher graciously allowed for a new pairing, I got talk to my new editor, sharing what I’d originally intended, and the Author’s Edition was born. It’s actually substantially shorter than the original. I’ve sharpened dialogue and motivation, warmed up a few characters, and added some things to tie to Trial of Intentions more seamlessly.

Bryce: Speaking of the rest of the series, what are the plans for the entire series, The Vault of Heaven? How many books do we get to look forward to and now that the definitive version of The Unremembered is out, along with its sequel, Trial of Intentions, when’s the next one coming out? Because of course that’s what you want to talk about after all that work. J

Peter: I’m always suspicious of writers who give exact book series counts. But that’s just me. Originally, I’d thought six to eight books. I’m now feeling it’s more like five or six. But we’ll see. The thing I can promise you is that I won’t drag it out. I will be sure to do justice to the story I’ve conceived, but I won’t belabour it. Besides, I have other books I want to write, and I can’t really start those until I’m done with the Vault of Heaven series.

Bryce: How does writing the sequel or future volumes in the series compare with writing the first book? Do you already have a lot of the big events planned out ahead of time?

Peter: In some ways, writing the sequel was more fun. I had a lot of the world building done, so I could spend more time with narrative and character development. And Trial of Intentions is where so much of what’s unique about my world really kicks into high gear. There’s some major science stuff—astronomy, mathematics, physics, philosophy, cosmology, etc. The music magic system—which my readers and reviewers are saying is unlike anything they’ve ever read before—steps into the spotlight. I twist old tropes, challenging reader expectations. And I deal with some sensitive topics, like suicide, giving characters some deep motivation.

And yes, I have some of the big events all mapped out. Not all of them. I’ve left myself room to play. But I know the broad strokes, for sure. And the ending.

Bryce: Not only do you publish books, but you work a day job at Microsoft and write and play music. How much does music effect your work as an author? Do you find yourself drawn to other musician/authors? Do you recommend any?

Peter: Well, I think music influences my writing in a few ways. First, there’s the overt stuff, like my music magic system. I spent a lot of time developing magic in my world. I started with the idea that there’d be what I call “governing dynamics,” akin to mechanical law in our world—things like gravity and magnetism. In my fantasy world, the central governing dynamic is: Resonance. It’s a unifying principle for magic systems everywhere. Which means that while the magic systems—so far I have five—all look and are expressed differently, they all operate off Resonance. The reader can look at them and understand this, even though the magic systems are quite different.

Then, there’s music as a part of the cultures of my world. I’ve woven it in deeply. Things like entire cultures that pivot on music. Conservatories. Etc.

And I’ve had many readers tell me that they find my writing musical. I don’t try to do this. But I’ve begun to wonder if there’s something about being a musician that gets inside the words. In any case, that’s what my readers say. And whenever they do, I get a happy.

I don’t know very many musician authors, I guess. I did become fast friends with Ty Franck—half of James S.A. Corey—because we both love metal. Does that count?

Bryce: And how do you balance working full time with publishing? I know the publishing schedule can be gruelling. 

Peter: It’s mostly what I said above, I get up early. I have to. I’m too emotionally exhausted from corporate America when I get home to write fiction.

Bryce: Are there any things that have kept you grounded when times get tough?

Peter: My family. And music. And the sky, mostly at night.

Biggest priority in my life is my family. Being a dad is the best thing I’ve ever done. Love it!

And I can put on certain bands and listen to their music and it helps the bullshit fade away.

And I’m a bit of an amateur astronomer. I’ve always loved the stars. I find looking up at them always puts things into perspective.

Bryce: Do you have any recommendations or advice to authors trying to break into publishing?

Peter: Read. Write. Keep doing those things. Keep pushing yourself to learn and improve. Don’t give up, no matter what anyone says. And then try to be your most gracious, authentic self, and go out and meet other writers in the real world—not just online. We’re usually very supportive and helpful. We’ve been there.

Bryce: Traditional publishing versus self-publishing. What are your feelings of both, what do you feel are their strengths and weaknesses?

Peter: I’m of the mind that they can/should co-exist. Traditional publishing is less nimble, more risk-averse, but they do often have more editorial rigor, as well as access to the retail channel, which is where most books are sold. Self-publishing allows for rapidity, more chance-taking, and more revenue for the writer, but it has virtually no access to retail assortment, and the digital shelves are crowded—not to mention that discovery is a challenge, and most writers don’t understand how to drive digital discovery of their work (and to be fair, much of it is out of their control); plus the majority of self-published work hasn’t gone through the editorial rigor I mentioned, or smart product packaging and design. Oh, and with all the review gaming that goes on, it makes it hard for readers to wade through the sea of titles.

Bryce: Thanks for stopping by, Trial of Intentions is one of my most highly anticipated books this year and I can’t wait to jump in. Any final comments?

Peter: Thanks, Bryce. Love hearing that! I hope you enjoy it.

Nothing really. Just that I appreciate your time; as one who puts a premium on time, I’m genuinely grateful for yours in doing this interview. Cheers!

Thanks again to Peter! Check out his books below and a quick author bio:

Peter Orullian has worked in marketing at Xbox for nearly a decade, most recently leading the Music and Entertainment marketing strategy for Xbox LIVE, and has toured as a featured vocalist internationally at major music festivals. He has published several short stories. The Unremembered is his first novel. He lives in Seattle. 

The Vault of Heaven:

Also check out Peter's Goodreads page for a list of all the short stories and anthologies he's been involved in, such as Unfettered and Blackguards.

15 June, 2015

Winner Chosen - Giveaway for Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian

We have our winner for an ARC copy of Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian:

Kayla Strickland from Virginia!

Thanks to all who entered and congrats to Kayla! I had a few responses who commiserated with my lack of attention to emails and some very nice responses in general. No snark, you guys are just too nice. :)

Look for an interview with Mr. Orullian going up tomorrow.

12 June, 2015

Interview With ... Me!

S.C. Flynn has been running a great series of interviews with some wonderful bloggers and influential people in the online discussion of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Fantasy Literature, Fantasy Book Critic, Stainless Steel Droppings, Dag Rambrout from SFFWorld.com, and so many more).

So in other words, you're probably asking yourselves why I've been interviewed. :) I don't make the rules, but you can find it here: Interview with Only the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy.

After just over 5 years of blogging, I guess I should thank those who've "tuned" into the blog. Thanks for all the fun discussing something I have such a great love for. I hope you take some time to read through some of the responses of those others interviewed as well. Flynn has done a great job.

Additionally, I wanted to note that I'm still running two giveaways at the moment:

1. Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools, book 1 of The Red Queen's War - SIGNED. I've got 2 copies to giveaway. I'll give this another week or so.

2. Peter Orullian's follow up to The Unremembered, Trial of Intentions. I've got 1 copy to giveaway to one lucky winner. I'll announce the winner on Monday, so you have until then to enter.

04 June, 2015

Giveaway - Two Signed Copies of Prince of Fools (paperback) by Mark Lawrence

Some days being a blogger is just fun. This is one of 'em. (Are there even any bad blogging days?) I woke up this morning to a direct message from author, Mark Lawrence, who, among other things, offered to do a giveaway with signed copies of Prince of Fools.

I can't say that was my hardest decision of the day. Not only did I love the book (review here), but I get to give away a book that I loved to two lucky people, and it's signed!

The sequel to Prince of Fools just came out in the US and it's one of my most-anticipated books this year. The Liar's Key is book 2 in The Red Queen's War and I couldn't be more excited to jump back into Lawrence's writing. Note, this is NOT a giveaway for The Liar's Key.

The rules for those who want to enter for their chance to win one of two SIGNED, paperback copies of Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools, Book 1 in The Red Queen's War:

1 - Send me an email to onlythebestsff@[remove this]gmail.com with your name and address.
2 - Enter the subject, "Prince of Princes!"
3 - This is an international giveaway, so ... no aliens from outer space I guess.
4 - Snark increases chances of winning future giveaways! I know I'm terrible, but how can I know how terrible I am? This is how.

03 June, 2015

(audiobook) Review - Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans

"Apocalypse Now meets Lord of the Rings" is an apt description of this book as long as you recognize anyone's comparison with Lord of the Rings is interchangeable with "Fantasy."

Not even high fantasy, which Lord of the Rings is, but in the case of Of Bone and Thunder it's more on the grimdark, realistic fantasy level.

The Kingdom (America) occupies the jungle of Luitox (Vietnam, pronounced Luto) and back home citizens of the Kingdom are blissfully unaware of how bad things are actually going. But, it's hard to come to grips with the fact when you already know your country can't be beat.

Chris Evans created an incredibly realistic world here with different peoples at war, humans, the slits (derogatory name for people of Luitox), and even dwarves.

The armies of the Kingdom ride dragons, or rags as they're commonly called, who have been domesticated as much as dangerous fire-breathing dragons can be. Plus, there's magic in the form of thaumaturgy and all the divided allegiances you could ask for.

What I liked about this book was the focus on the common soldier. Mostly, we follow a shield (a handful of soldiers) and their tasks on Luitox. We see their grumblings with their senior staff, their difficulties with the "slits", their treatment of the new recruits, and get to know them quite intimately. You easily feel at home with this grouping.

Also, we follow Jawn Rathim, a thaum, and later a grouping of dragon riders.

There's lots going on and it's obviously a well-thought out world. I also liked the use of the strange words that become commonplace by the end of the book. You feel part of the world and the soldiers who tend to have their own language as well.

Because it is a Vietnam-type book, there's lots of racial tension and even more focus on the grim. I have to admit to getting a little worn out by the end of the audiobook because it was constantly a downer. It's only natural given the circumstances, but it is wearing.

Speaking of the audiobook, the narrator, Todd Haberkorn, did an excellent job. He nailed the voices and quickly became unnoticeable, which is the sign of a great narrator - you forget it's being narrated. There are lots of gruff soldiers and yet he had a different voice for each and it wasn't even too difficult to recall who was talking with all those harsh voices.

Count me impressed with this book. I don't know what I expected, but Of Bone and Thunder is quite unique with its take on an unstoppable fantasy kingdom who's met its match. The world is all its own and the characters are relatable if not loveable.

3.5 out of 5 stars (recommended)

21 May, 2015

Review - Superposition by David Walton

For some reason I'm always impressed when something both entertains me and educates me. It's as if all those years of torture schooling gave me unreasonable expectations.

But that is the case here. David Walton's Superposition is a fun romp through quantum physics. Jacob Kelly is a brilliant physicist who is confronted by an old friend who pretty much destroys his life.

His old friend has some secrets, mostly involving his scientific research and he arrives at Jacob's house, uninvited, and points a gun at Jacob's wife. He shoots, but nothing happens to her. He's discovered something big, but this discovery ends up with Jacob on trial for murder.

The whole book switches back and forth between two viewpoints. One is the present time where Jacob is figuring out the mysteries surrounding his friend's odd behavior, the other time period is Jacob on trial for the murder of that same friend. All of this is told in the first person.

As an attorney, I was actually quite impressed with Walton's grasp of the courtroom. I spend quite a bit of time there and just ask my wife, she can't stand watching shows with any amount of court. But I can't help it, the stuff Hollywood does in a courtroom tends to make no sense at least half the time.

Walton does a great job, however, making the courtroom both realistic and entertaining, which is why Hollywood tends to not follow the realistic approach I'm lead to believe. And the worst part is, the District Attorney has a pretty great case against Jacob only made worse by the fact that the real explanation is absolutely ludicrous.

Throughout the entirety of the book, you're also learning a lot about how quantum physics work. How probability plays more of a role than just about anything and how that is just about impossible to wrap your mind around because how can probability have anything to do with things that exist!

And that's not to say the narrative gets bogged down in explanations, it's a smooth thriller and the science only adds to the wonder.

I quite thoroughly enjoyed Superposition and probably mostly for how much I get to bug people with my new found knowledge of particle physics. It's a fascinating concept on display in an entertaining read. Highly Recommended. The finale of this duology, Supersymmetry, comes out September 1, 2015 from Pyr.

4 out of 5 Stars.