Monday, September 28, 2015

Shattered - A Book Review

I recently finished Shattered by Kevin Hearne, the seventh book in the Iron Druid Chronicles. This is the first book I have read of the series. Yes, I know it's the seventh; it was the only book the bookstore had. I've taken to picking up a book in the middle of a series for research on my own writing, but that's another post.

I must admit, I haven't been this torn over a book in a long time...possibly ever.

In Shattered, Atticus O'Sullivan has been the last Druid for over two-thousand years. His apprentice and girlfriend, Granuaile, has reached Druid status and in the previous book Atticus rescued his Arch Druid, Owen, from being frozen in time.

Atticus needs to catch Owen up on the last two-thousand years while also trying to find out what gods and goddesses are trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Granuaile is working to save her father, who is possessed by an evil sorcerer's spirit in India.

The premise of this book is so good. I love mythology and Druids so this book is right up my alley. The book visits several different places in the world and incorporates different pantheons, making it even more appealing to me. Even though I hadn't read any other books in the series, I was able to follow the plot. Hearne provided enough backstory when needed for me to know what was happening and why, without bogging the story down.

I also love Atticus. He's quirky, rather mouthy, confident and fun. Granuaile's character is also well done as a strong, independent woman. Probably because I picked up the latest book in the series, I wasn't sold on their relationship. They spend the majority of the book apart so I didn't find there was a strong connection between them. I found Atticus a little too dismissive when he doesn't hear from Granuaile, though I liked his confidence in her that she can handle herself.

So if I liked all the stuff, why am I so torn?

I was really into the book after the first chapter. When I started reading the second chapter, something annoyed me about how Granuaile's perspective was written. I realized it was written in present tense. Atticus's chapters are in past tense while Granuaile and Owen's chapters are in present tense. I found that super annoying, but was determined to move on.

My next major issues was the way Hearne slipped in his own likes, dislikes, and opinions into the book, like the shot at the Toronto Maple Leafs. Areas where he did this were stiff and seemed out of character, which drew me out of the story.

I've read some other reviews of this book and found that some people enjoy Atticus and Granuaile's dogs. The two Druids are able to talk to talk to the dogs, who answer them back in their minds. To me, it was over done and rather annoying at times. It does lighten the book and add some humour, but I could have done without it or at least a lot less of it.

So will I go back and read the rest of the series?

It actually hurts to think of how awesome I would have found the series if those other things had not been part of it. This easily could have been my favourite series. But once you realize something annoys you when reading, it's hard to over look it.

I decided that I love the premise and Atticus so much that I will.

Do I recommend this book?

I recommend it with caution. Everyone is different so the things that annoy me, might work for someone else. There's a lot of things I had to overlook to really enjoy the book and some people might not have the patience to do that if they have the same issues I did.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Critique Partners Rock!

It's hard to see your own work objectively. We become caught up in our stories and are working on so many levels that it's difficult to step back. We know the story, the secret motivations, the backstories that we don't put in our work. With all that running around in our heads, it can be hard to see how the story works for a reader who doesn't have all this knowledge. This is where a critique partner (CP) comes in.

A CP is an important part of the writing process. If you have more than one, even better. The purpose of a CP is just as it sounds, someone who reads your work and gives honest feedback on it. The person can critique everything from story structure, plot, and characters to the finer details like grammar and wording. In exchange, you critique your partner's work.

It takes a little practice critiquing, but as you learn more about writing, you know what to look for. Sometimes just pointing out areas of confusion or a different idea on a scene can be immensely helpful.

I've leaned a lot being a CP. It's a great way to apply what you learn about the writing process. When you read someone else's work, its easier to pick out ways to improve or other issues. I have found that doing this makes it easier to spot some of the same issues in my writing. Sometimes I see the way another writer handled something, a description, a character, etc., and it gives me an idea of how I could handle a similar aspect.

Being a CP, you also get to read some great stories and help make them better. It's exciting to know you're working on something that could one day be published, and when it does, you were part of that.

The best critique partners aren't afraid to give you honest feedback. They point out areas where there are problems or need improvements in a way that's not harsh, just honest. It's not only about pointing out what's not working, it's also pointing out what is working. I try to leave comments when I feel good tension has been built, something about the character or scene really shines, or if something surprises me. Doing this is as important as pointing out the weaknesses because it allows your CP to see strengths in the project. It can be hard to know what is working in a story as much as what isn't working.

Receiving critiques isn't always easy. Remember that your CP is trying to help better your story. A good CP will usually note that the thoughts are her own and you can use what works for you and disregard the rest. To be a good CP, you'll do the same. I never get offended if a CP doesn't use my suggestions.

Finding a critique partner can be challenging. First you want someone you can work with and secondly, you want someone who understand your genre and vice versa. Sometimes it's good to start by trading query letters or a short story.

I found my CPs on social media. Watch for someone looking for a CP or asking if anyone has time to read his/her work. My first CP came off #amwriting via Twitter.

Here's a few places to find a CP:

Look for writing groups in your community or online.

Whiskey, Wine & Writing is a fabulous website and I recommend listening to their webcasts. The ladies are knowledgeable and entertaining, and they bring on wonderful guests. They also have a CP listing.

Ava Jae blogged about where to find CPs here.

On Twitter you can also use #critiquepartner or watch during contests like #PitMad, #AdPit, #QueryKombat, etc.

I've found making connections on social media the best way to find a critique partner. I've met some wonderful people, some who have become friends and have provided support during the more challenging times of my writing journey.

Where did you meet your CP(s)?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Skye Falling - A Review

I recently finished the paranormal romance, Skye Falling. This novella is the first release by author Anna Kyle, published by Red Moon Romance. This book is part of a series that will start with Omega Rising (release date TBA).

The book is about a Halfling-Fae princess named Skye who is determined to save herself. Her wolf-half will not wake and seems to be draining her Fae magic, which is slowly killing her. Hearing of the Wolf King, Skye takes off to find him, hoping that he can awaken her wolf and save her life.

Lake, the Wolf King’s second in command and enforcer, is charged with keeping Skye safe as a favour to the Fae king. Reluctant to do the task, Lake finds himself on a ride he never expected. When he grabs Skye, her wolf wakes enough to bite Lake and his wolf returns the favour, linking them as mates. When Lake can’t sense Skye’s wolf-half, they wonder if the bond is false. There is suspicion that a spell was cast to mimic the mate bond so the Fae can get close enough to the Wolf King to kill him. To find out the truth, they must visit to a shaman. On that journey, they grow close and develop strong feelings for each other as they are attacked by Dark Fae and bicker with each other.

Kyle has built a rich world where the paranormal lives in secret along side the humans. I love books that do that because it’s fun to think that our world is full of more magic and mystery than we are aware of. Her world has texture and is believable.

Skye is a little fire cracker, which I love. She is a great blend of princess snob and sassy-bad-ass. She’s not going to wait for a man to rescue her. From the first page, she is her own woman, ready to save herself. She won’t bow to her fate, she’s ready to fight. Then you have Lake, the hot, wolf enforcer. I like his grumpy nature at the start and how Skye puts him in his place. As the story goes on, you see his softer side and his ferocious commitment to his mate – even if he’s reluctant at first. In the beginning their connection feels a little forced, but by the middle of the book it settles nicely and by the end you’re hoping their mate bond is true, that Skye will survive, and left a little hot under the collar after their intimate encounters, which are done with a good amount of heat.

The story is told from Skye and Lake’s perspectives. I don’t mind stories with various points of view, but I’m not a fan of viewpoints shifting mid-chapter. Maybe it’s the organizer in me, but I like when a chapter sticks with one person’s perspective. I accepted this and was able to move on. It’s not a breaking point for me, just a strong preference.

Skye Falling starts right in the action with Skye seeking the Wolf King and Lake following her. I found the beginning a little stiff, trying to catch the reader up on what’s going on and the politics. As part of a larger series, I image there will be a lot going on, and Kyle has built a good founding her rich world. For this book though, the start a little info heavy given the fun, frisky nature of the rest.

Though I wasn’t totally pulled in at the start, I liked the characters and wanted to know what would happen to Skye. The ending of the book (nope, not telling you, you have to read it) was so well done that I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. The reveal and the writing for the end had me staring at my screen (I read the ebook), unwilling to stop reading until I knew how it all turned out.

If you enjoy paranormal romance and want something with some spice that you can read in a day or two (depending on your reading speed). Pick up Skye Falling and give it a shot. I think that author Anna Kyle will tell us some good tales in her coming books.

For an excerpt of Skye Falling, visit Anna's guest post on my blog.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Four Things No One Tells You When You Write A Book - Guest Post

I'm excited to have my first guest post - Anna Kyle, whose new paranormal romance Skye Falling was recently released by Red Moon Romance. She was even awesome enough to provide a taste of the novella after the post below!

Anna Kyle wrote her first story at age 12 on her dad's old manual typewriter, and though the technology has changed, she hasn’t stopped since. She lives in the Midwest surrounded by family and friends and dogs and horses. They’ve forgiven her (mostly) when they appear in her stories.

She reads everything she can get her hands on, but romances, especially paranormals, are her favorite. Vampires, humans, Fae, shapeshifters, or demons, it doesn’t matter—Anna’s heart goes pitter-pat for the Happily Ever After. Hot heroes + strong, funny heroines = awesome.

You can find Anne Kyle at her blog and on Twitter.

Four Things No One Tells You When You Write A Book

My first book (novella), SKYE FALLING, was published last week. The second, OMEGA RISING, will be out in the next six months. Books 3 and 4 in the Wolf King series will follow that (once I’m done writing them!). Yahoo! I’m still a newbie, debut author (I picture that as a wobbly foal, unsure yet how to run) but I’d thought I’d toss out a couple of things I learned along the way. 

1. It’s hard, like really, really hard to write a book from beginning to end. Once you’ve accomplished this tremendous feat - and it is tremendous - bask in the glory…for a day then put it away. Because the work is just beginning. Your completed manuscript is a lump and needs to be formed, molded, pummeled into a cogent story. But before that happens you need distance (for SF it was a few months, Omega Rising was a month). I’d read that tip but didn’t really believe until I experienced it. Believe it. Your amazing brain will keep the book simmering in the background as you throw yourself into another project. When you return to your story, suddenly the parts that aren’t working are easier to see, solutions bubble to the surface, plot twists get twistier, you're better able to kill your darlings.

2. Cheerleaders are awesome when you embark on the difficult journey of writing a book but know what’s even better? Critiques. I’m not saying find some a-holes who pick apart your baby. Kick those people to the curb. No one needs those guys. Exposing your words to someone else for the first time is nerve-wracking, even vomit-inducing. I’m talking about honest feedback said in a (hopefully) kind manner. Oh, and it probably shouldn’t be family. Family members are cheerleaders. You can find groups online through social media. Google critique partners or form a group of your own. You cannot write in a vacuum. If the crushing doubt doesn’t get you, overconfidence will. My personal monkey-on-the-back is Doubt, yes capital D. Balance is key.

3. Study the craft of writing. You may have an innate talent for creating wonderful stories but getting it down on paper requires work. Go to conferences. Participate in webinars (pricy but worth every penny). I subscribe to Writers Digest and found it to be super helpful. There are online forums like Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. My two favorite books on writing are Stephen King’s, well, “On Writing” and Donald Maass’ book “Writing 21st Century Fiction” but there are TONS of books on the subject willing to drop pearls of knowledge on us. Read as many as you can.

4. Writing is lonely. Find support. This is different from cheerleaders or critique partners. I’m talking when it’s 11 o'clock at night and you're stuck on a scene that just. Doesn’t. Work. We all know that feeling. Ugh. I HATE that feeling. I’ve found support on Twitter. Maybe you use Facebook, or Snapchat, or Reddit. Whatever. Reach out. Even just venting to other writers because they know exactly what that feels like helps. I met folks through participating in NaNoWriMo last year and all of us were freaking out. 50,000 words in 30 days? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? But a lot of us did it while sharing word counts, doing word sprints, or flat out whining to each other. (My urban fantasy book is still waiting for me to get around to fixing it). Just knowing other people are out there struggling with rewrites, edits, scenes, somehow shares the burden. At least it did for me.

Now for a peek at...

Sand whipped into the air. A whirling vortex sprang up and halted the shifter’s forward progress and then lifted him four feet above the beach. Stunned by what she’d created, Skye dropped her hand and the wolf landed on the beach with a thump. Sand coated every inch of his body, but before he could act on his growl’s implied threat, Skye hurriedly lifted him back into a new sand tornado.

She’d practiced her power regularly, in secret as advised by her father, but had never been able to marshal this kind of force before. Skye could snuff out lanterns and blow papers off her father’s desk but not much more. The wolf’s surprise had turned to anger in his second ride. His eyes were narrowed against the stinging sand, but Skye could see their golden glow. The enormity of what she was about to do hit her.

She could stop it now and be returned to her father or, the lesser possibility, the torture of the Dark Fae. Both meant death.


That small word meant life. Not a tough decision. He strained to get to her and shouted, but the roar of the wind whipped his voice away. She summoned a life jacket onto his torso, followed by a pair of orange water wings around his arms. He glanced down and roared helplessly as he comprehended what she planned. He pointed a finger at her, then pointed down. Yeah, like she’d do that. Stupid wolf.

“It’s not personal, wolf,” she said, pleased her voice was calm. Skye raised her shaking hands. With a flick of her wrist she flung him out into the deep lake, far enough that she’d have a chance to escape but not so far he would succumb to hypothermia. She winced as he bounced across the lake’s surface like a skipping stone. Once. Twice. Three times before she could see him bobbing in the waves. It was done. No going back now.

She hoped he could swim and wished for a moment she had sent a raft with him. Skye took off toward Union Station in the pre-dawn shadows, ignoring the enraged wolf’s cursing dwindling in the distance. Her fingers wove as she ran and her soggy dress changed to her standard gray tunic and leggings and boots. Fear gave her an added boost of speed as she zigzagged through the city just starting to wake up. The first train out was at 6:00 a.m., only an hour away.

Anna Kyle (2015-08-25T04:00:00+00:00). Skye Falling (Kindle Locations 227-231). Red Moon Romance. Kindle Edition.

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