On Madison Ferril

From the cold sprang everything, to the cold all will return. She is that ending, where the end goes on forever. Point zero. Circular. A Russian winter, where powerful bears slumber. Vast as the arctic sea, fathomless as starry space. A cool look from her will stop armies in their tracks. Men fear nothing more than the creeping chill in her blood.

Frosty breath and ice chips for eyes. A ruinous smile, the sort to freeze your heart. Hers is a slow takeover, a silent war, filled with icicle teeth and ruthlessness. No stopping her ascension—she’s already buried her enemies beneath shrouds of snow. Stand aside, if you wish to live.

What powers her is this: a strange blue flower, one whose petals she gives to those she loves. These and the flower itself generate warmth, for they are her true heart. We keep our petals hidden close, to protect ourselves from harm. If you seek this warmth yourself, you must trek across miles of tundra. But should you survive, earning her trust is a gift as unique as a snowflake, well worth the journey.

On Mattie McAlavy

She is all the colors of a late autumn sunset.

‘Long hair and glasses?’ Pfft. That description could fit anyone. Try phoenix hair and plum lipstick, metal in her lip, ink on her skin. Confident swagger; cold, challenging gaze. War paint and armor.

In nature, bright colors signify danger. Poison. She’s just as hard to miss and her aim’s deadly and true. If you cut yourself on her sharp tongue, you have no one to blame but yourself. She did warn you.

With her, you’ll find yourself on uneven ground. Unbalanced, untethered… unresistant to her charming laughter and playful banter. Watch yourself, for if you linger, you won’t leave. Won’t mind, either, because when she counts you as a friend, you have no better place to be.

There’s a difference between her and autumn sunsets, though. Sunsets vanish and autumn dies, unremembered. But she… she is unforgettable.

Pre-Ordered Books of 2017

I’ve waited all year to read both of these.

I’ve waited all year to read both of these and they each arrived in the mail at the same time today. 

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater and What the Hell Did I Just Read? by David Wong

Reviews will be forthcoming. (Happy, spazzy dance!)

Road Kill Update: Release Date

An update on the Roadkill anthology publication

I talked in a previous post about how my short-story submission was accepted to be published later this year in Volume 2 of the Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers anthology. Last night, as I was falling asleep, dreaming big dreams about the trip to the San Japan convention today, I got an email from E. R. Bills with two things:

The cover image for Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2

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Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2, edited by E. R. Bills and Bret McCormick

(P.S. I love it.)

The release date: October 21 

There’ll be a launch party at Fleur Fine Books in Port Neches on Oct. 21, featuring the editors E. R. Bills and Bret McCormick as well as many of the as-of-yet unannounced contributors to the anthology. Since Port Neches is over 600 miles from the Texas Panhandle, I likely won’t be attending myself. Still, if you can make it, you should.

Flier for the Road Kill launch event at Fleur Fine Books in Port Neches, TX

(P.S. The picture with the ground cracks refers to my story “Thirsty Ground.”)

If you miss this one or if it’s too far away, there’s a second confirmed signing event at Book People on Oct. 29 in Austin, TX.

Flier for the Road Kill signing event at Book People in Austin, TX

I still won’t make it to this one either. But if you want to see me — and pick up a copy of Road Kill featuring my short-story “Thirsty Ground” — there may be an event in Amarillo soon. To be announced.

I’ll also update when I have more information on where to purchase the book after its release.

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

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!)