On Joshua Edwards

His was a voice that often followed mine. I could drop a snappy comment and he would snatch it up, shift the trick sideways, and lob it back at me. You had to be quick on your toes around him, because you found that you didn’t want to disappoint him by dropping the ball.

His was a voice that often followed mine. I could drop a snappy comment and he would snatch it up, shift the trick sideways, and lob it back at me. You had to be quick on your toes around him, because you found that you didn’t want to disappoint him by dropping the ball.

Conversely, if he believed in you, you could do anything.

In his words was the wistfulness of a dreamer. He gave much and asked for little in return. But if you watched closely enough, you could see how, when he believed no one was looking, his gaze would drift toward the stars, the ache in his heart for something more becoming the ache in your own. I think he thought himself unnoticeable, invisible, and if you’re shifty enough, you can be. But I saw him. He’s real. If you’re quick enough to catch him, cup him gently in your palm, because starlight cannot be imprisoned.

Book Review: The Blood Mirror

A deft narration interwoven with a unique magic system, complex world building, cunning politics, interesting history, brilliant battles, intricate confrontations, and, best of all, puns.

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The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

Synopsis:

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen… and only he can save it.
As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

The Blood Mirror is the fourth installment in The Lightbringer series, written by New York Times Bestselling author, Brent Weeks. I’ve been following his works since the simultaneous debut release of The Night Angel trilogy in 2008, which was my first real introduction into the genre of epic fantasy (and my gateway drug into the works of Peter V. Brett and Patrick Rothfuss). Since then, I’ve read The Night Angel trilogy more times than I have fingers on both hands. Yet Weeks continues to improve his storytelling game with every new book. His Night Angel trilogy is breathtaking, but his Lightbringer series is mind blowing.

I took so long to get around to reading this book partly because every time I went to pick it up at the library, it was checked out. No matter which branch I went to. The other part of the reason was because I knew that, once I started it, I wouldn’t be able to stop reading.

I was wrong. By that, I mean I was so wrong. Not only could I not stop reading it, The Blood Mirror consumed me, mind and soul. Every time I had to put it down for work or sleep or socializing, I wanted only to get back to it the moment I was free again. Even now, a solid day after devouring even the Author’s Note at the end (Weeks’s notes are always humorous), I’m still pining for more.

Here’s why:

The Lightbringer series features a plethora of characters from all across the spectrum, each one individual and interesting, complex and–in the case of Andross Guile for me–infuriatingly difficult to pin down. As lifelike as real people. The Blood Mirror focuses on a year fraught with peril for our four main characters: Kip, Teia, Karris, and Gavin. These four undergo tremendous character growth, each trapped in personal fights, stretched more and more between impossible decisions that will affect the war raging across the Seven Satrapies against the White King. It’s plain that what occurs in The Blood Mirror is the buildup to the explosive climax that will be the entirety of the final book.

Weeks has convinced me to fear for his characters.

Just when it seems Weeks has reached the maximum number of new cultures to introduce to the story and the peak of new applications for his magic system, he flies right past it and soars into the sky. I can never get enough of exploring this vast and richly colored world. The narrative itself is an examination and dissection of morality, madness, philosophy, theology, and love. More questions than answers, as well as a look out how each character must handle that uncertainty. A deft narration interwoven with a unique magic system, complex world building, cunning politics, interesting history, brilliant battles, intricate confrontations, and, best of all, puns. 

I don’t know how I’ll survive the next couple of years waiting for, likely, the last book. What torture. (Somewhere, Brent Weeks is cackling as he draws more life from his readers’ pain.)

Goodreads rating: 4.28 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars

On Adam Zielinski

Forever in my mind, he relaxed at a table surrounded by friends, the neck of a beer bottle held loosely between long fingers, his other hand gesturing a narrative point to support his story. He had an intensity about him, the electromagnetic capacity to hold his audience spellbound in a way I never could. But no matter the gravity of a topic, he couldn’t remain serious for long, often dissolving into laughter, along with the rest of us. When he listened, he listened. When he spoke, he spoke. But, I thought, when someone could make him laugh, that person gifted us with something small, yet wonderful.

Forever in my mind, he relaxed at a table surrounded by friends, the neck of a beer bottle held loosely between long fingers, his other hand gesturing a narrative point to support his story. He had an intensity about him, the electromagnetic capacity to hold his audience spellbound in a way I never could. But no matter the gravity of a topic, he couldn’t remain serious for long, often dissolving into laughter, along with the rest of us. When he listened, he listened. When he spoke, he spoke. But, I thought, when someone could make him laugh, that person gifted us with something small, yet wonderful.

On Lyle Hall

I came upon a solitary scarecrow in the middle of an empty field. At first, he wasn’t there, and then he was, just in the corner of my vision. He hunched against the elements, head bowed in the red evening sunlight. When I approached him, he seemed nearly translucent, so faded with the sun and the wind. But in his very human eyes I found a glint of mischief; humor was tucked into the corners of his smiling mouth.

I came upon a solitary scarecrow in the middle of an empty field. At first, he wasn’t there, and then he was, just in the corner of my vision. He hunched against the elements, head bowed in the red evening sunlight. When I approached him, he seemed nearly translucent, so faded with the sun and the wind. But in his very human eyes I found a glint of mischief; humor was tucked into the corners of his smiling mouth.

I asked him which way to go and he pointed me in the right direction, keen to help. As he did, he became tangible again, not from my acknowledgement of his existence, but from his direct impact on reality. He had made change. Before I went on my way, he slipped a witty quip into my pocket. I keep it folded there even now, in case of nosey crows.

The Character Description Project

I hosted something of a creative community project on Facebook the week before last, mostly by accident. By ‘accident,’ I mean that I didn’t expect it to explode into the huge deal it became (for me at least.) Here’s how it went down:

Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing) author Chris Brecheen (a fabulous human whose website you should check out) shares amusing writing-related memes, encouragement, and puns all day every day, in addition to churning out solid word-slinging advice. One of these was an older Tumblr post asking the reader to describe the original poster ‘the way an author would in a book.’ I didn’t like sharing something so me-centered, so I reposted it with a little twist.

 

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Tumblr post: “describe me the way an author would in a book” – if you do this i might cry Additional commentary: ‘Comment and I’ll do one of these for you.’

By now, two weeks later, I’ve written thirty of these character descriptions. Thirty. With one still in the pipeline, because that one’s on the back burner for now. That’s a little over a quarter of my friends list. The cool part, though, is that I wasn’t the only one writing these–several other people joined in, writing lovely character descriptions of their own. There was even one who wrote a description of another commenter, without involving me at all. Two others shared the original post from Writing About Writing with the same offer to their friends.

It. was. awesome.

Also… frightening.

The day I posted it, I started the first response with silliness and flippancy. Not even trying. But as my finger hovered over the post button, something within railed at the artificiality. I just couldn’t make anything less than real, so I scrapped it and wrote a new piece from the heart. Not stopping there, I kept doing the same with the rest. I pulled together impressions, musings, and memories, drawing out the essence of my subjects, holding up a mirror so they might see their reflections the way I see them.

As a result, I discovered that the trouble with writing authentically about people you know is twofold:

  • First, it reveals a lot about you–the way you’ve noticed others, what you’ve noted, how many secrets you must know. Folks could be more on guard around me now.
  • Second, it reveals a lot about them–writers are observant by nature and so, I think, we often know things not meant to be known, without realizing. Things inefficiently hidden away. It wasn’t until I was halfway through–when some people came forward to tell me they were too scared for me to write their character descriptions–that I recognized I might be showing too much.

It’s sort of like fortune telling, where you, the seer, are peering into someone’s past rather than into their future.

The good outweighs the bad, though. There are 150 comments on the post right now. Obviously, thirty of those are my descriptions, but the rest (not counting descriptions written by others) are happy reactions to them. Each glowing a little stronger. There’s nothing so freeing as telling your friends how awesome and beautiful you’ve noticed they are, especially through your own art.

What happens when you angle a mirror toward a shining light? It brightens the entire room. That’s what I hope to have accomplished from thirty-odd hours of writing work: a brighter world.

(P.S. I will be posting one of these character descriptions every Thursday for almost the rest of this year. Stay tuned!)

Fourth 2017 Writing Goal Complete

In which I blather about reaching writing goals surprisingly early.

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Wait, another one? Didn’t we just do one of these like two weeks ago?

Yeah. I got through this 25,000 word chunk with a lot of help from some writing I did on this story last year. I had no idea that roughly 15,000-ish words comprised just five chapters. By the time I added them in (because I’d finally reached them in the plot), I was at 99,000 words. That’s what that random spike is in the chart. It was just a matter of writing that last 1,000 to already be done for this month.

Of course, that’s not the way of writing. I’ve got to keep up the momentum so the narrative doesn’t go stale in my mind. But with the sudden complete jump to the next arc, I find myself flailing a bit. I know what’s going to happen next, but not quite how it will. I didn’t have time to think about it, to spool out the events and dialogue and gunfights in my imagination. It’s taken me three days of thought to just now start working it out. I’m still turning possibilities over even as I write this.

I’ve somehow gotten it in my head that I’m about halfway done at chapter 45. That had me feeling a little defeated, imagining another 100,000 words before I can take a break from this story. It’s been a fun adventure but also a harrowing struggle, being my first true efforts at overcoming writer’s block again and again and again. Fortunately, I’ve come to the realization that I just have this one arc and some small chapters to tie in a few subplots before I’ll be writing the final climactic arc.

It will be nice to put this down for a while and spend time on some short stories. I’ve written two while working on this larger piece, but it stresses me out when I take time away from one to do the other. Soon, maybe after one more progress update (sooner, if I didn’t have to wander around the block just to get down the street when I write first drafts), I’ll set this aside for a couple months. Stephen King said in On Writing that when you come back to your draft, “you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.” I’m ready for that break. But more than that, I’m looking forward to coming back and beginning to revise.

I’m close enough to see the end. Now I have only to reach out and touch the finish line.

Book Review: The Dark Days Club

I cannot gush about The Dark Days Club enough. It’s deliciously dark, a thrilling urban fantasy.

The Dark Days Club
The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman

Synopsis:

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

I missed the release of The Dark Days Club back in 2016 and I’m sad that I only just now got to read it. But the upside is this: well before I finished this book, I found out the second in the trilogy, The Dark Days Pact, has already been released, a discovery I made because I didn’t want the one I had in my grubby little hands to end yet. Whew.

I may or may not have the sequel on order as I write this.

I cannot gush about The Dark Days Club enough. It’s deliciously dark, a thrilling urban fantasy. I don’t normally go in for Regency era narratives (yawn), but this one builds a rich world, lovingly detailed to strengthen the plot rather than detract from it. The book is large enough to use as a weapon in a fight, but the narrative wastes none of that space, moving right along from one bit of intrigue to the next. Alison Goodman pulled me in with an escalating cascade of questions and mysteries, one leading to another, growing grander in scale. Lady Helen Wrexhall is a sharp and clever main character, vibrant and lifelike. The other characters are distinctly themselves — from a horrid, overbearing uncle in charge of Helen’s life, down to the house footmen. At this point, I would love to meet the steadfast handmaid Jen Darby or the savage Lord William Carlston myself.

You know how we often get tales of heroines ripe for rebellion because, for some reason, they don’t ascribe to the norms of society in even the slightest? This is not one of those stories. Lady Helen Wrexhall lives a comfortable life in Regency London and when her life starts to shift toward the paranormal, she’s actually resistant to losing that carefree happiness. A refreshing change in characterization, in my opinion. The question of which life Helen will choose grows more and more exquisitely agonizing right up to the end. In Alison Goodman’s duology, Eon (which I highly recommend), the heroine does not choose the life or the lover I wanted her to pick (because, frankly, that choice would not have been heroic and would have led to her ultimate downfall). But this time around, Helen did not disappoint me in the slightest. Darkness rules the day in The Dark Days Club and I am well pleased.

Goodreads rating: 3.82 stars (why?!)
My rating: 5/5 stars (I would give it more if I could)