A run-of-the-mill fantasy story with some interesting ideas
The Teralin Sword was an interesting story with some great plot points. I was particularly gripped by the concept of the mineral Teralin itself. The author developed a really cool concept with the nature of this metal and its ability to be forged into fascinating weapons. I also enjoyed the dark monks and their evil ways – they lent a brutal gravitas to the book and gave the protagonist a believable and sympathetic motive for his part in the story.
The plot itself, though dotted with some interesting ideas, was a pretty standard fantasy story. It was quite predictable and a lot of the characters and plot points fit a little too neatly into typical fantasy tropes. The characters were a little weak and forgettable. In fact, now that I am a week past the end of the book I can’t clearly remember many of the characters at all! (There was also only one female character and she served merely as a faint romantic interest to the protagonist. This grated on me somewhat.)
The writing was generally good and Holmberg has a good style which is accessible and easy to read.
As this blog focuses on world-building, I want to share with you my review of a great urban fantasy book I read recently that has excellent world-building – Nite Fire: Flash Point by C.L. Schneider – Enjoy!
A dark, gritty urban fantasy that is reminiscent of Jessica Jones
This book took me a long time to finish, not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because every inch of the world is so rich and loaded with fantastic details which all come together to build an image of this heavy, dark city plagued by crime and a nasty underworld of creature attacks. I was strongly reminded of the Jessica Jones TV show. This book has the same film-noir feel to it – sour, embittered detectives and dark underworld goings-on. The protagonist, Dahlia Nite is also very Jessica Jones – strong, independent and won’t take any nonsense from anybody!
As with all of C.L. Schneider’s work, the plot is complex and well-developed, the characters grey and layered. Nothing is as it seems, and there is always layer upon layer of mystery, intrigue, snappy comebacks and downright brutal violence. Schneider is one of few authors I read who can make my jaw physically drop. She is a master of the epic reveal!
A cracking read – I can’t wait for the next in the series!
It celebrates all things film and rewards those who have been judged to have made the best contribution to the industry we all know and love. The coveted by many yet gifted to so few, Oscar. It was often assumed (by me admittedly and so many more of us) that the Oscar goes to… the greatest of its category, the ‘Best Picture’ of the year, the ‘Best Actor’ or ‘Actress’, the ‘Best Director’ and so on and so forth.
I’ve always gone along with these awards and believed their certification to be the gospel truth, to carry more weight than the opinions of friends and family, to trust The Academy to only award the best of the best, year in year out. I’ve taken ‘Metacritic’ scores to be the measure of all good cinema, and Oscar nominations as an unshakable mark of a the best films of the year.
But three things have caused me to wonder exactly what The Academy’s criteria are.
The recent rise of the ‘superhero’ genre (rarely nominated and almost never winning)
Christopher Nolan (the greatest director of the last 20 years in my opinion) is still unrecognised
All three of the newest Star Wars films are also uncredited despite an impressive 11 nominations between them.
The Academy seems to hold a real disdain for ‘blockbusters’, almost as if they are justifying ignoring really outstanding movies of late because they are doing so well at the Box-Office and therefore do not require further rewarding, or because they are not ‘Oscar material’. I allude to the aforementioned Star Wars films – namely The Last Jedi (2017) and going back 9 years – The Dark Knight (2008). Both were (granted, 2 of my favourite films of all time, but that’s not the point!) absolutely fabulous additions to their respective franchises, beautifully shot with nigh unrivalled cinematography, powerfully scored, edited to perfection and with special effects the likes of which we are quite frankly blessed to be graced with in our time.
The Last Jedi was nominated for 5 Oscars, The Dark Knight for 8 (winning 2 – Sound Editing and the late great Heath Ledger winning Best Supporting Actor). These films were both heralded as possibly the best movies of their respective year, both quoted as having the best direction but, yep, you guessed it, failing to receive a nomination for Best Picture or Best Director. They also both happened to gross the highest amount of their respective years. Coincidence? I think not!
Has the Academy got it wrong?
In 2009, The Best Picture award went to Slumdog Millionaire and in 2018 to The Shape of Water. Both great films but, in my opinion, somewhat forgettable and definitely not the greatest movies of the year they were released.
I am yet to see The Shape Of Water sadly, but with the strong competition in mind that I did see, I am concerned that in time it will be seen as another occasion on which The Academy got it wrong. Only time will tell. I will say, however, that my incredulity has turned to utter dismay that Dunkirk, one of the single greatest cinematic achievements I have ever seen did not win Best Picture.
Recent memory may have had something to do with this decision. Dunkirk’s summer release is, in this case, a hindrance to its success. Another omission for the great Christopher Nolan, who at this point must be wondering what he has to do for some recognition from The Academy.
I am also losing my faith in The Oscars for the sheer brazen belief that, in line with my view of good cinema, I’m starting to realise how short they fall. In recent years my horizons have broadened, my tastes changed, my mind opened and with it I have come to respect all aspects of cinema in a much fairer and more respectful way.
Filmmakers should not exist to win Oscars nor should they exist to make money.
Film-making is a wide form of art respected the world over. Rewarding so little of this art-form in awards ceremonies aimed at a very specific branch of film-making and such a small handful of films really is unfair, I’m starting to feel. Maybe I’m embittered by the lack of recognition for films I have liked or been touched by on a personal level. Maybe with my maturing tastes I’m starting to rely on my own opinions and views, instead of seeking approval from critics or more appropriately of late, The Academy.
This is a change that pleases me greatly, I can respect a wider range of cinema without prejudice, without pre-judgement and I can formulate my own opinions with conviction and belief that those around me whose taste align with mine, or those who know me and value my opinion, may respect me even more as a critic, a writer and as a fan of cinema in general.
On Saturday March 10th 2018 I held a stall at the Coalville Writes literary festival. It was my first author event of this kind and therefore, a steep learning curve!
Here’s what I learned about running a book stall:
Prop up your books with little stands so that they are clearly visible. If your books are just lying down flat then people will only see them when they come right up to the table. You need people to see the books from far away. A fellow stall holder and author, Matt Beighton, did a particularly good job of this with his large foamex boards of his book covers:
Have eye-catching banners – My banner for The Phoenix Project was the best tool I had for drawing people towards the stall. Lots of people commented on it or stopped to read it (and I could then pounce on them and engage in a chat!)
Smile– Even though we just see ourselves as struggling authors desperate for readers, some people may be intimidated by our title as a ‘professional writer’. Make sure you smile and are as friendly as possible.
Talk to people – As with the previous point, get out there and talk to people. Don’t stand behind the stall as it puts a barrier between you and your readers. Strip that barrier away and engage with people by standing out at the front.
Use this as an opportunity to get mailing list signups – even if people don’t buy a book on that day they might later if you keep in touch with them.
Offer free stuff/competitions– I did a competition to win a £20 Amazon giftcard in exchange for people signing up for mailing list and buying books. I also handed out free bookmarks and chocolates – people love free stuff!
Sit down – It makes you look unapproachable and it would turn away many a customer who just want to chat to you. Do everything you can to strip down the walls between author and reader.
Forget to take change – I initially planned to sell all my books for £10 but then changed to include a deal where people could buy two books from the series for £17 – but I forget to bring any change! So when somebody bought the pair I had to run around trying to find some change for them!
Come unprepared – I not only forgot change but I also had to run to the local shop to buy sellotape, string, post-it notes and all the other little things I had forgotten!
Be intimidated by people – Yes, they’re your customers. Yes, you have to do everything you can to get them reading your work, but at the end of the day they’re just people. Don’t be afraid, don’t panic – just get out there and talk to them. Don’t ‘sell’, just chat!
Use untrackable competition entries – As part of my Amazon giftcard giveaway I allowed people to earn multiple entries into my competition by doing different things. People earned 10 entries for buying a paperback, 5 for an ebook, 1 for following on social media and 1 for signing up to the mailing list. Of these options, only the paperback sales and the mailing list signups worked. And that’s because they were were things people could do easily, there and then. It would be too hard to track who signed up on which social media platform. And why would people stand at my stall and buy an ebook and then have to show me an email as proof? Too hard! Make sure all entries are as easy as possible and can be done there and then.
As my first author event of this type, I think it went well and I learned a lot. Next time, I’ll be following my own advice and hopefully will get even more sales!
What tips do you have for holding a stall? Tell me in the comments below.
Patrick Jackson is featured on my site today to talk about the immersive world-building of Universal Studios. Take it away, Patrick!
Can Universal Still Build A Monster Universe?
For those interested in expanded worlds and connected universes in fiction, Universal’s Dark Universe has been something to keep an eye on the last few years. The idea was for the studio to use its valuable monster properties to establish a darker version of the Marvel or DC superhero universes (especially after the recent success of Black Panther, and the upcoming Avengers:Infinity War movie). But after The Mummy failed as the first planned installment, the Monsterverse is in peril. Top producers have abandoned the project, and at this point it’s uncertain whether or not the so-called “Dark Universe” will ever come to fruition.
Answering that uncertainty is difficult. But at least on the Universal side of things it seems prudent to start with the simple question of what went wrong. In this regard we have a few theories.
The first is that there was no real foundation for the Dark Universe, despite the studio’s rights to fiction’s most famous monsters. While there are connections and similarities here and there, it’s not as if there are decades’ worth of comic books, or years’ worth of literature placing these characters on teams or in scenarios together. The closest we can come to placing them all together is the library of slot arcade games produced by NetEnt. Showcased by SlotSource, this collection includes nods to Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and even lesser characters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This at least places many of the Dark Universe monsters on the same platform. But it’s merely a result of Universal and NetEnt striking a licensing deal, as opposed to any kind of connected storyline.
The second issue is that the Dark Universe was too openly planned. SyFy Wire did a long write-up on the apparent failure of the universe and made the very interesting observation that audiences might just not have cared about The Mummy (which came out in 2017). This, in theory, was because viewers were keenly aware that everything happening was just to set up a bunch of sequels. That is to say, when Iron Man came out in 2008, we knew that Marvel had more plans in the works, but we didn’t know the full scope of the MCU, or how connected everything would be; we were just watching an Iron Man movie, the way we’d watched Batman Begins in 2005 or Spider-Man in 2002. It was its own movie, and we got a chance to dive into it and embrace its character. The Mummy felt like a steppingstone before we even sat down in theaters.
And the third problem, as we see it, is that The Mummy simply wasn’t compelling. From the moment Tom Cruise’s character fell out of an airplane in the trailer it was clear that this was a more modern spring action flick. The Mummy of the late-‘90s with Brendan Fraser was no masterpiece, but it was at the very least a fun experience, caught somewhere between Indiana Jones and National Treasure – undeniably silly, but self-aware and engaging. The modern version of this kind of film is one lost in over-the-top action sequences and special effects. And unfortunately, Universal doesn’t seem to have been aware that this style – more in the Transformers vein – is growing tired for audiences.
These are three very serious problems: lack of foundation, the assumption of sequels, and a poor start. But if we forget about The Mummy entirely, the concept of a “Dark Universe” actually sounds like one that ought to work. The way we can imagine it doing so is if Universal has the courage to scrap existing plans, hire new producers, writers, and directors, and start all over.
One of my favourite authors, C.L. Schneider, is on the countdown to releasing her latest novel – Chain Reaction: Book 2 of Nite Fire (an epic urban fantasy series). I’m super excited to share the cover with you. Inspired by a compilation of several scenes within the book, the cover features empathic shapeshifter, Dahlia Nite, in her (mostly) human form. The artwork was created by the amazing cover artist, Alan Dingman.
If anyone can tell the difference between monsters and humans, it’s Dahlia Nite. For nearly a century, she’s hunted one to protect the other; safeguarding humanity from the creatures that slip through the torn veil between the worlds—creatures like her. But the lines are blurring. As people begin mutating and combusting on the streets, Dahlia realizes a strange affliction has descended upon Sentinel City. The mysterious ailment strikes all walks of life, from the posh, high-end nightclub district to the homeless community. Its victims, driven to random acts of savagery, are drawing attention too fast to cover up.
Assigned to the case, Dahlia and her human partner, Detective Alex Creed, investigate the deaths. But all they have is questions and bodies, and a public on the verge of panic. Working behind the scenes with her self-appointed sidekick, Casey Evans, Dahlia struggles to discover what, or who, is behind the alarming transformations. As the violence spreads and the mystery unfolds, she wonders: are the victims still human? Were they ever?
Chain Reaction is the second book in the Nite Fire Series.
C.L. Schneider is an award-winning independent author of adult epic and urban fantasy. Born in a small Kansas town, she currently resides in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley Region with her husband and two sons. Her published works include the epic trilogy, The Crown of Stones, and Flash Point, the first book in her urban fantasy series, Nite Fire. Book two, Chain Reaction, will be released in early 2018.
Learn more about C.L. Schneider, and the worlds she creates, at clschneiderauthor.com where you can read reviews, excerpts and sneak peeks, join her Street Team, and subscribe to her newsletter. An active part of the indie author online community, you can connect with her on social media, where she is often found chatting about the daily ups and downs of a writer’s life.
All titles available in paperback or for Kindle. Read free with Kindle Unlimited.
Nite Fire: Flash Point (Bk 1)
The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price (also available on Audible)
This Saturday I will be appearing alongside Stewart Bint at the Pop-Up book fair as part of the Coalville Writes literary festival in Leicestershire (10.30am – 4.30pm) Why not pop along and see us? You can buy signed books, get some free goodies and enter a competition to win something cool (prize yet to be decided!)
Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be interviewed on Radio Leicester by the wonderful Emma Boydell. Having heard my recent segment about Marvel’s latest movie, Black Panther, I was invited to feature on the show to talk about my writing.
My immersive fantasy novels A Chronicle of Chaosand The Shield of Soren are part of a dark, epic series called The Light and Shadow Chronicles. This series features warriors, epic battles, angels, demons, magic and people with incredible powers.
So what makes it any different from countless other fantasy series? Read on to find out…
The world of the Light and Shadow Chronicles is in a state of eternal turmoil. Alcherys and Meraxor have been at war for thousands of years, trapped in a stalemate that is manipulated by forces greater than any of the characters realise. In order to emerge victorious, each army must recruit greater forces to fight for them—angels, demons, armies of the underworld and magical creatures.
Each of the books in the series focuses on a significant character and their role within the eternal war. Every story lays a building block for the epic finale but the books are written out of order. One story may feature a character in his adulthood, the next is set before he is born, the next after his death. Putting the order of events together is up to the reader.
The reader may choose their own journey through the saga. If they feel connected to a certain character, they can follow that individual’s story first. And if they join the series after book 5 is released, there is no need to read books one through four first.
So the series truly is individual, and a reader may navigate it as they see fit. So, with new books being released all the time, the choice is up to you. Catch up on A Chronicle of ChaosandThe Shield of Soren first or read them afterwards. It will make no difference to the understanding of the series as a whole.
And if you fall in love with the series, you won’t have long to wait – more stories are on their way!
Today, A.M. Manay is talking about her young adult high fantasy novel Hexborn.
Hexborn and the English Reformation
Inspiration can come from many places. In the case of Hexborn, my fantasy novel currently up for nominations on Kindle Scout, one of my sources of inspiration was the Reformation. Take a look.
Gasps filled the village Temple as Brother Edmun began reading the king’s declaration regarding his takeover of the Church of Bryn. He stopped and glared at them over the top of the paper until they quieted, then continued. Shiloh, sitting on the front bench, could feel eyes upon her back when he got to the section about the cleanliness laws. Her Da patted her arm and gave her a grin and a wink, and she relaxed.
There was plenty else in the declaration for everyone to get upset about. King Rischar claimed the right to seize church property and to take a portion of the required tithes for the use of the crown. He had expelled the Patriarch on grounds of treason and had seized all of his property in Bryn. All shrines dedicated to Patriarchs, both current and past, were to be destroyed. Rischar claimed the right to appoint bishops and to purge those loyal to the Patriarch. Those priests who refused to accept the king’s headship of the church were to be arrested. Rischar declared his marriage to Mirin annulled. By the time Edmun was finished reading it all, his congregation sat in silent shock.
For the first time in Shiloh’s life, the service did not conclude with a prayer for the Patriarch. The silence lifted as soon the people were dismissed. Every wife in the village shook her head and clucked her tongue. Shiloh eavesdropped as she helped Edmun put away the chalice and scrolls, the candles and incense.
“If Queen Mirin can be tossed aside, any one of us could . . . This Zina he’s marrying. She musta put him up to this . . . I’ll be damned if I’m sharing me table with the Unclean. I don’t care what that paper says . . . In the Teeth, we keep to the old ways. Who’s gonna stop us? Lord Blackmine never sets foot in our hills. Afraid of the Feralfolk, most like . . . The Ferals sup with the Unclean, ye know . . . Say what you want about the Usurper, but she never tried to take over the holy church . . . You can bet the tithes will go up, now the king’s got his fingers in ‘em . . . Me mum taught me the Patriarch of the Holy Church was the Elder reborn. I’m supposed to stop believin’ it on account of some letter from the City?”
I am a sucker for historical fiction, and as a Catholic turned Presbyterian who is married to a Hindu, and as someone who attended thirteen years of Catholic school, I have an interest in the Protestant Reformation. Last year marks 500 years since Martin Luther upended Christianity, so it seems especially appropriate to be releasing a fantasy novel inspired, in part, by the mingled political and religious conflicts swirling around the acts of rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church. I was particularly influenced by the English Reformation and the actions of Henry VIII.
Much like Henry VIII, King Rischar of Bryn has a wife he wants rid of and a religious leader who won’t permit him to cast her aside. He is also in need of gold, and the Church has plenty. Thus, he kicks out the Church’s supreme religious leader, called the Patriarch, and declares himself head of the church in Bryn. Like Henry, he is more interested in expediency and gaining wealth than he is in changes to theology or ritual. Some of his advisors are, however, genuinely interested in reforming some religious abuses, and the king goes along with some of their desired changes.
Also, as in Henry’s case, conflict ensues. Priests and noblemen are purged, imprisoned, and exiled for continuing to support the Patriarch. Even many ordinary people continue to support the Holy Father in secret. The conflict simmers below the surface and occasionally erupts into violence, and it helps to motivate an incipient rebellion that the main characters in Hexborn are attempting to quash.
Do you have any favorite works of fiction inspired by actual historical events? Share them in the comments, and then please do head over to Kindle Scout to nominate Hexborn for publication. Remember you’ll receive a free copy of any book you nominate that is chosen! Many thanks to my host and to all of you!
A.M. Manay biography
A.M. Manay is an award-winning fantasy author in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also a former inner-city chemistry teacher, a wife and mother in a multi-racial family, a lover of comic book movies, a Lupus warrior, a Clerk of Session, and a 9Round enthusiast.
She loves to write page-turning stories with complex, diverse characters who inhabit interesting worlds.