Review of All the King’s-Men by Adam Dreece

All the King's-Men

I’ve been a fan of Adam Dreece’s The Yellow Hoods series since I read the first book, Along Came a Wolf. The series has a fun, upbeat style, with some brilliant kids who get into all kinds of danger and have to use their ingenuity and a variety of unique inventions to survive. The series is labeled as “An Emergent Steampunk Series” because a lot of the steampunk technology we see in the books is brand new, being developed by the characters as the series progresses. It’s very interesting to see so many inventions being unveiled, rather than having a world where such things already exist.

This book focused a lot on a developing conflict where it seems the villains are planning to use their newly developed technology to start conquering less-developed nations. There’s also an interesting subplot where at least one kingdom has an old law that outlaws inventors and innovation, unless the inventors work for the government. This leads to a sort of secret society of inventors who have to keep their works hidden, for fear that they’ll be arrested for developing potentially dangerous technology. A lot of the tale is centered around a group of people trying to keep the plans for a new type of steam engine from falling into the wrong hands.

Compared to the previous books, All the King’s-Men takes on a bit of a darker tone. In Along Came a Wolf, the central main character, Tee, was a preteen girl who got into trouble with some unsavory characters, and she and her friends had to work together to save the day. By the time we reach the third book, the characters are a bit older, their enemies are more dangerous, and there are darker twists and more violence and bloodshed. The stakes are also a lot higher, with a war brewing, assassinations taking place, governments being overthrown, and betrayal around every corner.

The only complaint I have about this volume is that with the expansion of the conflict, it sometimes seems that there are too many characters and too many subplots, which makes it a bit harder to follow a central storyline. There were a few times where I started to mix a couple of characters up, simply because there were so many characters engaged in different branches of the plot. This didn’t detract from the writing style itself, which is quite strong. But it does make it so that All the King’s-Men works best as one bridge in an ongoing series, rather than as a standalone novel. It would definitely be best to pick up the first books in the series before this one, in order to keep up with everything that’s been going on.

You can find the book on Amazon, or through the author’s webpage (where you can also order autographed copies). You can also connect with Adam Dreece on Twitter.

Advertisements

Review of Two Pairs of Shorts

Disclaimer: I won a free copy of this book from a Goodreads Giveaway.

First, I should note that I went into this book having no idea what it was. I thought the title was quirky enough to be interesting, and I figured I’d give it a shot and see what it was about. It turns out the title is a pun on the four short stories in the book…two pairs. It’s clearly a self-published book, and from the start I could see it isn’t one of the more professional self-publications. There are no page numbers, the text is left-justified (like a Word document that was directly uploaded without formatting), and most of the book is double-spaced, giving it a strange layout. However, I decided to focus on the content itself, rather than letting the formatting anomalies affect my judgment of the book.

The stories themselves were mostly bland. The writing itself is solid enough; the writer knows how to paint a descriptive scene, and the book was mostly free of grammatical errors. But the problem was simply that the stories didn’t go anywhere. One of the stories was nothing more than a man walking to the mailbox, for about twenty pages, while he reminisced about how his life wasn’t going anywhere. Another had a woman doing laundry, for about six pages, while she reminisced about her poor life and her abusive husband. She spends the whole time thinking about having a nice cold glass of lemonade, but the big twist ending (Spoiler Alert!) is that when she goes inside, her husband already drank it!

The only thing that made reading this worthwhile was that two of the stories were kind of funny. Completely predictable and without much plot, but humorous enough that I was entertained. But all in all, I’m glad that I didn’t actually pay for this book.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Breaking the Norms in Romance Novels

Romance novels are not my first love.

I’ve read some that were written by people I know on Twitter, a few others that I got for free through giveaways, and some that I picked up just for research purposes. There’s always a bit of a romance subplot in my own books, though my primary genre is urban fantasy. I’m always looking to improve every aspect of my writing, including the romances, so I try to look carefully at each romance I read and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what can be tweaked.

There’s a few things I’ve noticed tend to be trends in almost every romance novel that I’ve read:

  • Super-hot, perfect men with flowing blonde hair, who are also rich, famous, successful, and yet still manage to be sensitive and chivalrous.
  • A female protagonist who is, in stark contrast to the male lead, pretty bland and normal.
  • Love at first sight, or at the very least, intense attraction at first sight. I can always tell from page one who the main character is going to end up with at the end of the book.
  • Everything is very cis/heteronormative, with LGBT characters few and far between.
  • There’s always a “Oh no, they had a fight and might break up!” moment near the end.
  • Then they get together anyway and always, ALWAYS have a happily ever after.

Now, some of these tropes I can understand…as much as a happily ever after gets bland after awhile, it makes sense that readers want a happy and satisfying ending. And I can understand having a near-breakup around the climax, because there has to be conflict in order for a story to remain interesting.

What I don’t like is how every couple seems to be carbon-copies of each other. I’ve never read a romance novel where the male lead is, say, someone like me: overweight, poor, nerdy, and unable to attract women the majority of the time. And I’ve never read a romance novel where the romantic feelings developed slowly over time, the way a lot of real-life relationships do. Instead it’s always a head-first dive into True Love, where you can practically hear the violin music playing in the background.

Recently, I’ve been writing a lot of romance novels for freelance ghostwriting projects (the titles and details of which I cannot share due to NDAs). What I’ve been trying to do, however, is to break out of some of these romance novel tropes. I deliberately decided to make one of the male leads a balding, overweight, middle-aged man. Another was a scruffy, shy man who spent most of his time reading. I made one of the stories have an interracial couple. And another one pairs a lesbian and a bisexual as the main romantic couple.

I’ve found these projects a lot more enjoyable because I can play around with the tropes and try to find ways to keep things fresh. I’m still experimenting and learning, and I’ll still say I’m “still learning” when I’ve written twenty, a hundred, or a thousand of these stories. But the results have been quite good, and my clients have definitely been satisfied.

And I’ll be applying some of what I’m learning here to my own future novels as well. Speaking of which, expect updates soon on revisions of Contamination, since I’m about to dive into some serious work on it this coming week.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Romancing the Ghostwriter

Getting paid to write is an amazing thing.

I’ve blogged a few times over the last few months about how I haven’t been writing much. I’ve been struggling, due mostly to a combination of life changes (leaving school, starting a new relationship) and work issues (being stuck in a crap job, working long hours, and being exhausted all of the time). It was hard to find the time to work, whether it be on one of my own novels, or on a blog post, or anything else.

To give you an idea how bad things got, here’s my Writer’s Calendar for January:

One lonely sticker
One lonely sticker

I give myself a sticker for every 1000 words I write, or for one blog post, or any equivalent amount of writing or revisions. It’s a great motivational tool to be able to look at a good week of writing progress and see a visual representation of all of the words I’ve written. But obviously, January sucked. I wrote one blog post, and that was it.

But once I started doing paid writing assignments (after leaving my crappy restaurant job once and for all), this is what February looks like:

I'm a superstar!
I’m a superstar!

All kinds of stickers! Every star is from paid writing gigs. The lone sticker on the 23rd is from revisions. And the penguin is for blog posts (I get a penguin today for writing this, too).

It feels pretty good. Not only am I paying the bills with writing, but I’m also doing something productive. It’s nice to be able to look back at the end of the month and see how far I’ve come.

Most of the ghostwriting I’ve been doing has been for romance novellas (I can’t divulge the details due to NDAs, as they’re being published on Amazon under the client’s pen name). It’s a different sort of writing than I’m used to, but it’s fun and productive. And I’m getting my creative juices flowing on a daily basis. I didn’t miss one single day since February 7th. Some of the earliest stuff I wrote was what I had to do in order to actually get the jobs, but by February 21st I was officially hired and bringing in the paychecks full time.

There’s no guarantees that I’ll get nonstop work, since freelancing is on a case-by-case basis. But I’ve got two steady clients so far who are very pleased with my work and are continuing to hire me for ongoing projects. So I’m going to be ghostwriting up a storm. And hopefully finding some time for my own projects as well. After all, I’ve got a sequel to finish revising.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook